Sunday, October 21, 2007


The artist is concerned with producing something that will be enjoyable even after a successful revolution.

Ezra Pound, "The State", SP, p. 184

My favourite act of misreading, as far as my own misreadings are concerned, had me thinking Tony Tost had written, "We usually know a poem that is dispatched from the State when we read it," in "Disarm the Settlers". Though I quickly realized my mistake, the sentence has stuck with me. I'd say it remains a "Tostian" attitude in any case.

I've been thinking about it in relation to Soft Targets 2 and was reminded of it again when I read Pound's "The State", in which he makes his familiar distinction between "the state as convenience" (res publica) and "the state as infernal nuisance".

I think there is an important relation between the State and the Poet. I think all states depend on a certain "disposition" or configuration of emotion in their populations. Poetry tweaks that configuration, and may therefore be inimical to the interests of state at a particular time. (Tonight I am not wholly committed to the idea that any degree of emotional precision is anti-statist, but the thought does cross my mind sometimes.)

Pound said that the politician who picks the right artist is "blessed". That is, the (true) artist is always way ahead of the revolution. I like this idea. I don't like the equal and opposite idea: the artist who sides with the right politician is blessed. This may only be a matter of emphasis, but I think it makes all the difference.

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