Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Primer Book Notions Akin to Madness (or Politics)

Western civilization is at the mercy of an international conspiracy of bankers ...

Wars are caused by this "usurocracy" in order to run nations into debt and create opportunities for manipulating the currency.

From Malcom Cowley's summary
of Ezra Pound's "ideas" (1961)*

I was out of focus, taking a symptom for a cause.
The cause is AVARICE.

Ezra Pound's forword to
his Selected Prose (1972)

I have stayed largely clear of political questions in this blog. And scientific questions as well, for that matter. But I've recently become aware of the enormous grassroots opposition to "American empire" that has formed around so-called 9/11 conspiracy theories. I've always suspected that real politics must transcend right/left distinctions. This movement seems to be doing that.

As far as I can tell, the 9/11 conspiracy is related, by a variety of networks, to the conspiracy Pound saw in the monetary system. (Michael Ruppert and Webster Tarpley have different versions of this connection, but to roughly the same effect.) Earle Davis notes that these ideas may "appear somewhat extreme or even 'akin to madness,' if one may venture a euphemism."* The point, for both Cowley and Davis (who disagree about just how kooky Pound should be taken to be), is that the Cantos "exploited" these ideas and may be judged, at least in part, by them. I've resisted this approach to poetry until now. But, as I keep saying, Kasey Mohammad's idea that some poems, at least, have an "ethical stickiness" to them has had me reconsidering this.

A couple of years ago I found an old book called Friendly Fascism by Bertram Gross (Evans, 1980). It's really not a very good book, but it does describe a strangely familiar society, governed by an inscrutable network of powerful interests (an avarice system, let us say), indifferent to any distinction between government and business. It was, to my mind, actually prefigured by Alexis de Tocqueville's description of "the new physiognomy of servitude" (the subtitle of Gross' book is "the new face of power in America").

I once proposed that Flarf, and perhaps post-avant poetry more generally, is the sort of literature that could remain poetic even under fascist conditions. That is, even if we live in the nightmare world described by those who believe 9/11 was carried out by a "rogue network", a "secret government" beholden to "an international conspiracy of bankers", in order to accomplish all the much more terrifying things that followed, these poems are there to "make glad the heart of man". A "poetry after Auschwitz".

The basic idea behind approaching the poetry/politics issue in this way is to consider the possibility of an abyss between the political consensus and the political reality. And then to live intensely within that possibility.


*Davis, Earle. Vision Fugitive: Ezra Pound and economics. The University Press of Kansas. 1968. pp. 13-14.

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