Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ideoplasty, March 12, 1937

I'll probably return to Chapter 20 of Pound's Guide to Kulchur (pp. 137-140) again and again.

Here he quotes from a letter he received from Katue Kitasono about "the relation between imagery and ideoplasty". Ideoplasty, I take it, means formed thought. (In "The Possibility of a Poetic Drama", Eliot praises the "clear and beautifully formed thought" of Russell's "On Denoting"). Kitasono talks about "orthodox poetry" and "the system of literature". And he talks about "the method of poetry" in terms of a progression from language, through imagery, to ideoplasty.

"What we must do first for imagery is (in this order) collection, arrangement and combination."

Ideoplasty, or what I want to call metaphysical composition (inspired by Giorgio de Chirico), seems to be all about the arrangement of imagery drawn from whatever sources are available. Kitasono offers the example of

"a shell, a typewriter and grapes",

which I've mentioned in discussions elsewhere. Those are really just words, and are therefore operative on the level of "language". Full imagery would require more words (as I understand Kitasono's point here) and we are left, so far, only with "aesthetic feeling", not yet "that which we vaguely call poetical effect."

Once we have an image, I'd argue, we have a strophe (in poetry) or a remark (in philosophy) but not yet an emotion or a concept (ideoplasty, composure). This comes through the arrangement of images.

I know this is all pretty standard modernist orthodoxy. It is a bit like Pound's advice in the ABC of Reading (p. 31). While "Coleridge or De Quincey said that the quality of a 'great poet is everywhere present, and nowhere visible as a distinct excitement', or something of that sort," Dante said simply, "A canzone is a composition of words set to music." Like Pound, "I don't know any better point to start from."

1 comment:

Jay said...

Just to clarify, are we left with only an "aesthetic feeling" because there's no verb? Or maybe I should ask a broader question -- what are the conditions (assuming they can be defined) which permit something to qualify as a full image?