Sieurth_Pound_Zukdoc - University of Pennsylvania

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Sieurth_Pound_Zukdoc - University of Pennsylvaniaof

    Richard Sieburth

    EP/LZ: Corresponding Cavalcantis

     I‘d like to start with a letter Pound wrote Zukofsky in May, 1932, which, according to Barry Ahearn, was accompanied by copies of Pound‘s much-awaited recent

    Italian edition of Guido Cavalcanti Rime, published earlier that year at his own expense

    in Genoa. ―AWL rite,‖ Pound instructs his New York correspondent, ―Sell um fer wot

    1you can get/ if anything. And remit what‘s left. When you have eaten, /if ever.‖ Pound‘s

    tone is typically imperative: Zukofsky is to act as his American representative and import agent in the sale of this volume (to whom? The Gotham Book Mart? His brother Morris?), even though Pound is clearly aware that market (or exchange) value of these copies may be nil (―Sell um fer wot you can get/if anything‖). Out of whatever profit he might make, Zukofsky is then instructed to ―remit what‘s left‖ to Pound his creditor, but only after ―you have eaten,/if ever‖—the master‘s paternal concern for his emaciated disciple‘s bodily sustenance here transforming what initially was defined as a joint

    commercial venture into an outright gift or act of patronage (with characteristic caritas,

    the following year Pound would similarly help defray the costs of Zukofsky‘s visit to the Ezuversity in Rapallo). To such gestures of financial generosity, the impoverished Zukofsky would reply the only way he could, namely by symbolically indicating his debt to il miglior fabbro in his handsome dedication of his 1932 “Objectivists” Anthology to

    Pound as ―still for the poets of our time the most important.‖

     1932: A banner year for transatlantic American modernism, a year that not only sees the publication Pound‘s edition of Guido Cavalcanti Rime in Genoa, and of


    Zukofsky‘s “Objectivists” Anthology in Provence (Zukofsky choosing to represent

    himself in the volume by the Cavalcanti-inspired canzone of ―A-7‖), but also of Pound‘s

    Profile: An Anthology, published in Milan and containing Zukofsky‘s ―Poem Beginning ‗The‘ and ―A 3-5‖. During this same year, Pound is also working away at his BBC

    opera Cavalcanti:A Sung Dramedy in 3 Acts (a work long rumored to exist but whose full

    libretto and score were only published by Robert Hughes this past year); Zukofsky in turn is writing (and sending to Pound) the text that would be published two years later in Paris as Le Style Apollinaire and whose English version, edited by Serge Gavronsky, finally

    appeared as The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire this summer.

    Gavronsky‘s edition allows us to discover yet another Cavalcantian act of homage

    on Zukofsky‘s part to his expatriate master: at the end of the second chapter of the book, Zukofsky collages into his commentary the complete text of ―Donna mi prega‖ both in Italian and in English translation as given in Pound‘s 1932 edition of the Rime and in

    turn juxtaposes Cavalcanti‘s canzone with the quotation of the complete text of Apollinaire‘s 1914 manifesto, L’Antitradition futuriste, itself in part derived (as Zukofsky

    cites Apollinaire in a footnote) from the Vorticist Blast manifesto published that same

    2year in London. Although Pound remained supremely dismissive of Zukofsky‘s

    Apollinaire book, commenting that ―Apolinnaire [sic] not interesting enough to STAND

    3or carry all that discussion,‖ the critical ideogram constructed around ―Donna mi prega‖

    by Zukofsky was clearly yet another instance of his debt to Pound. By juxtaposing Cavalcanti with Apollinaire whose work, he noted, ―was often filtered with the light of medieval intelligence,‖ and by connecting the notion of ―surrealism‖ (a word after all coined by Apollinaire) with the work of both, Zukofsky was filially following in the


    footsteps of Pound who, in an 1930 article published in the Criterion on ―Epstein,

    Belgion, and Meaning‖ had compared Cavalcanti‘s images of desire both to the love

    poetry of the surrealists as well as to the ecstatically literal visions of Emmanuel Swedenborg who recorded having distinctly glimpsed in heaven ―three angels‖ with ―hats on their heads‖. Rereading Pound‘s article on Cavalcanti and Swedenborg as visionary

    4surrealists in 1932, Zukofsky was inspired to send a drawing to the master in Rapallo,

    now lost, but to which he cryptically alludes in A-18: ―Father not guilty: Emanuel‘s 4

    Angels with Hats/on their Heads: top hats tipped to a/ tramp: the drawing Old Tacit never returned‖—Old Tacit here being Zukofsky‘s nickname for the Pound of the final silent years, who although allegorically reproached for not returning his disciple‘s gift is

    5nonetheless proclaimed ―not guilty.‖

     Of all these various projects of 1932, I would like to concentrate briefly on Pound‘s critical edition of Cavalcanti‘s Rime—a volume whose importance in Pound‘s

    oeuvre and whose impact on Zukofsky have, I think, tended to be overlooked. Given its date of publication, it is very tempting to see this book as a kind of Objectivist (or even surrealist) poem composed in the mode of philologya text whose visual and citational

    strategies are contemporaneous with Walter Benjamin‘s initial notes for the Arcades

    Project and Georges Bataille‘s publication of Documents. Pound, at any rate, was

    convinced that his edition, as a modernist textual object in and of itself, constituted an innovative ―START for a new method of handling international texts . . . especially in the

    typographic disposition, relation of text to gloze, the tables, the photostat reproductions of the complete text taken from 32 different MSS. In such a way as to give a fairly clear


    idea of the paleographic history without waste of the student‘s time, substituting the

    6photos for description, and ending all that kind of useless discussion and repetition.‖

    To give you a better sense of both the feel and the look of Pound‘s edition as material object, I have provided xeroxes of a few sample pages. The title page, you will notice, bears no mention of Pound‘s editorship—the only trace of his involvement in this

    impersonal translatio of the voice of tradition into the Italian Fascist present (signaled by the date ―Anno IX‖, i.e. 1931, on the bottom of the title page) are the initials appended to

    the introduction, ―Ad Lectorem E.P.‖ [next page]. But the bitter subtitle, ―Edizione rapezzata fra le rovine,‖ Or ―Edition pieced together among the ruins,‖ provides an implicitly autobiographical epigraph to the history of this ill-fated project. Originally proposed to T.S. Eliot at Faber and Gwyer in 1928, only to be rejected as too expensive and too esoteric, then accepted by the Aquila Press in London, which went bankrupt after having printed only a portion of the book—the ―ruins‖ of the subtitle perhaps alluding to

    the 1929 stock market crash which proved disastrous for so many small presses and magazines—the body of Pound‘s Guido Cavalcanti Rime was literally ―pieced together‖

    out of the sheets set in England and further pages printed by the Edizione Marsano in

    7Genoa. The eventual book that emerged from this series of contretemps is indeed a kind of ―ruin,‖ a hybrid textual object printed in various different type faces and on four separate kinds of paper, primarily intended for an Italian readership but nonetheless composed in a bewildering bilingual mixture of English and Italian. Upon its publication, the eminent Italian scholar Mario Praz scoffingly characterized the edition as an ―incredible olla podrida… neither the work of a critic or of a poet, but an amusing brac-

    8a-brac that is exquisitely Poundian.‖ To add insult to Praz‘s injury, when Pound


    inquired of his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, whether his edition of Cavalcanti might be submitted to fulfill his requirements for the Ph.D. in Romanics that he had abandoned in 1909, he was informed that he would have to reapply to the university and return for additional coursework. The product of over two decades of labor on Cavalcanti (which reached back to the publication of his initial translations of the Sonnets and Ballate in 1912), and conceived above all in terms of its use-value for students and scholars of the poet, Pound‘s ill-starred edition of the Rime thus finds itself

    virtually hors commerce, that is, outside of any conventional discursive economy, be it academic or poetic, and beyond the sphere of any likely readership. Indeed, the only two recorded positive reader responses to this volume came from Etienne Gilson, the eminent French medievalist to whom Pound had sent a copy in Toronto, and from Louis Zukofsky in Brooklyn.

    The Table of Contents of Pound‘s Rime will give you a further idea of his Utopian

    dream of a Total Translation, a translatio, as it were, without remainder, without lack, in

    which the ―total man‖ that was Cavalcanti would at last be revealed in his full virile

    9effigy like ―Euclid inside his cube.‖ It is a dream that reached back to Pound‘s abortive

    edition of Arnaut Daniel of the teens, in which, in addition to the bilingual English-Provençal text with textual variants, he had hoped to include reproductions of manuscripts featuring Arnaut‘s music as well as maps of France and supplemental notes and commentary. This same ―totalitarian‖ dream of a translational Gesamtkunstwerk

    would later inform Pound‘s projected St. Elizabeths edition of the Confucian Odes,

    envisaged as a four-way book including photographic reproductions of 1) the Stone Classics text and 2) the Seal text, accompanied by 3) the Singing Texts (i.e Pound‘s


    romanized ―sound key‖ or phonetic ―graph ― of the originals—not dissimilar to

    Zukofsky‘s practice of transliteration and traducson), and finally 4) the English

    translation with notes.

    If you glance at the xerox of the Table of Contents of Rime, you will observe that

    the first section includes Pound‘s brief introduction (in Italian), followed by the printing of Cavalcanti‘s Sonnets and Ballate, of which I have given, on the next page one example: the famous ―Chi è questa che vien‖ printed by Aquila Press in England in a gorgeous

    Renaissance font, accompanied by variants in the left margin, and below, set in a different typeface, Pound‘s deliberately archaizing or foreignizing ―translation of accompaniment‖ of the sonnet into what he termed ―pre-Elizabethan English‖ and

    featuring in the second quatrain an extremely Zukofskian rhyme on the enjambed ―is‖ of the first line and ―uneasiness.‖ Returning to the Table of Contents for a moment, this first section is rounded out by various charts and tables indicating the locations of Cavalcanti manuscripts in various libraries and archives as well as a complete index of all the rhymes in Cavalcanti‘s verse—this kind of rimario being a standard feature of many

    Italian editions of canonical poetry, allowing readers to recover specific passages in poems via the end-rhymes that have lodged themselves into their memory.

    The second section of Pound‘s philological Memory Theatre—―Dove sta

    memoria‖-- the one of which he was justifiably the most proud, is devoted to forty pages of photographs of Cavalcanti manuscripts housed in various libraries of Italy, the images of which Pound had had phtostatically reproduced in Germany at his own expense by the process he referred to as ―Manuldruck.‖ Here the reader confronts the sheer auratic

    materiality of the original in all its complex paleographical guises, the history of the


    text‘s transmission made visible to the eye, substituting (as Pound noted) ―photos for description‖ (exactly as André Breton had done in his surrealist novel Nadja), and with

    the Marxian notions of use-value or exchange-value here giving way to what Walter Benjamin defined as ―exhibtion value,‖ which in this case relies on the sheer deixis of the visible: look at this/ reader/ here it is. Plate 2, which I have xeroxed, shows the beginning of the canzone ―Donna mi prega‖ as it appears on the Chigiano manscript, the text talmuldically framed by the Averroistic commentary of Dino del Garbo. And on the next xerox page, the same poem as it figures in the Laurenziano manuscript, written out as prose (no doubt to save precious vellum), but if you look very carefully, scribally punctuated by small raised dots and virgules, which serve to articulate the formal matrix

    described by Pound as the subdivision of each strophe into a series of of the canzone

    ―lobes‖ whose fugal structure he describes as ―14 terminal sounds and 12 inner rhyme

    10sounds, which means that 52 out of every 154 syllables are bound into pattern.‖

    Although Pound‘s English ―traduction‖ of the canzone [on the next xerox page] begins to gesture typographically toward this intricate pattern of end rhymes playing against internal rhymes—as in line 6, ―hope at all‖ picking up on ―know it call,‖ or two lines later, ―part of wit‖ echoed by ―light of it,‖ or the final lines on this page, ―have might‖ chiming with ―men‘s sight‖---it is only in his printing of the Italian original [see the next page of the xeroxes] that Pound translates the minute scribal marks on the Laurenziano manuscript into typographical lineation, setting off the internal rhymes as two- or three-step lines and thus achieving what Zukofsky would define as the crux of writing: ―audibility in two-dimensional print.‖


    Given the continuity, in Zukofsky‘s poetics, between the practices of quotation,

    transcription, transliteration and translation, all procedures by which, as Tim Woods has

    11observed, texts are doubled in order to produce a supplementary difference, it is worth underscoring the radically Borgesian dimension of Pound‘s typographical resetting of

    Cavalcanti‘s Donna mi prega. Like Pierre Menard‘s Quixote, Pound has not altered a single word of the original as it appears in the Laurenzanio manuscript, but by simply requoting it literally but in a different typographical setting, he Makes it New on the page, in the process transmuting Cavalcanti into a contemporary of Mallarmé or Apollinaire. Interestingly enough, in 1929, when inquiring of Wydham Lewis whether he might be willing to design decorative initials for his Aquila edition of Cavalcanti, Pound observed, ―As one can‘t get architecture or even mural stuff DONE one retreats to printed

    12page‖the privacy of reading and the design of letters on the page now replacing the lost communal space of public art, a lesson not lost on the Zukofsky of ―A.‖ Zukofsky, a poet of left-justified margins and relatively few underslung lines, is of course a far more austere architect of the page than Pound (or, say Olson), but the two- and three-step visual music of Pound‘s typographical reconfiguration of ―Donna mi prega‖ may be briefly heard in the indented lineation of Zukofsky‘s 1934 ―Song –3/4 time [pleasantly

    drunk],‖ a kind of brief dress rehearsal for the setting of Marx to the music of Cavalcanti in ―A-9.‖ Not that Zukofsky‘s luminous eye and ear would have needed it, but Pound‘s typographical x-ray of the musical ossature of Donna mi prega laid bare

    those intricate fugal structures of rhyme which he would reperform with such astonishing virtuosity in ―A-9‖—I refer you to Hugh Kenner‘s masterly analysis of the

    poetic intricacy of this translation which by its attention to the transmission of the sheer


    form or sound of the canzone (as opposed to its paraphrasable ―content‖) out-Pounds the

    master himself—as Zukofsky had noted in his 1934 ―Mantis,‖ ―Our world will not stand

    13it/ the implications of a too regular form.‖

    To return again briefly to the Table of Contents of Pound‘s Rime, the third section,

    ―Frammetti del‘edizione bilingue,‖ contains Pound‘s various commentaries in English on ―Donna mi prega,‖ originally published in the Dial in 1928 and 29. A regular reader of

    the Dial, Zukofsky was well aware of these essays; indeed, in a long letter of December, 1930 in which he explained to Pound for the first time the basic outlines of his ―A‖—a

    he informed his master that ―life-work‖ which would contain the ―epic 24‖ movements--

    he had ―lugged the July 1928 Dial number‖ [i.e. the one containing Pound‘s ―traduction and commentary‖ of Donna mi prega, ―followed by notes a consideration of the sonnet‖]

    14―to Berkeley and back to here‖ for intense study. There is obviously no time here to go

    into the impact of Pound‘s 1928 Dial Cavalcanti commentaries on the genesis of Zukofsky‘s ―A‖—indeed, the full-scale study of Pound‘s and Zukofsky‘s respective

    Cavalcantis still remains to be writtenbut I think it is significant that Zukofsky in this

    same letter describes ―A-7‖ as ―a direct outcome‖ and ―an acceptance of your challenge in The Dial‖ to overcome the restrictions of short lyric forms, in this case the sonnet, in order to move into the more inclusive space of Cavalcanti‘s ―canzone,‖ which, as Pound noted, at least provided a ―language [one] could think in‖ (or, in Heideggerian terms,

    15where Dichten equaled Denken). Zukofsky informed Pound, ―The intention of A-7 is

    to justify the attack on the sonneteers in A-1, where they had been characterized as ―immured holluschickies persisting thru polysyllables,/ Mongers in mystic accretions,‖ ignorant of those ―great contours‖ which Zukofsky was now trying to establish for his


    modernist work-in-progress, announcing to Pound that A 13-24 would consists of ―12

    Ballate beginning Anwith the intention of seeing whether the longer Canzone such as you write about in Dial July 1928can‘t be brought into English—as English.‖

    Zukofsky had clearly arrived at the overall fugal design of ―A‖ before becoming aware of what he called ―the main intention‖ of Pound‘s Cantos or reading his commentaries on Cavalcanti‘s canzone in the Dial, but Pound‘s insistence on motz el son, on the mutual

    translatability of poetry and music within the longer forms of the ballate and canzone did much to encourage the shape of Zukofsky‘s ―A‖. Hearing that Pound was working on an opera set to Cavalcanti‘s poetry, Zukofsky informed him in 1931 that Tibor Serly ―has set

    thdown the 7 movement . . . & found in it perfect logical development, sequence, progression,‖ thus convincing him that he had ―intuitively done something in poetry very

    16much akin to good music.‖ Zukofsky then goes on to explicitly compare his own ―A‖

    to the master‘s Cantos: ―The difference between Cantos & ―A‖ aside from diction (& quality of line) [is] in the matter of musical approximationThe difference between

    polyphony (many voices of angels, if you will permit it) and one human voice thematically split in twobut so far the fugal principle is more obvious in the last. We both partake of the cinematic principle, you to a greater & more progressive degree, tho‘ it wd. be pretty hard to distinguish in either case where montage leaves off & narration begins & vice versa.‖

    Pound‘s reply to this comparison between the Cantos and ―A‖ bears quoting. Although he wonders whether the Cavalcantian ―technical experiment‖ of A-7 is ―enough

    to sustain throughout limitless prolongation,‖ he nonetheless approves of his disciple‘s attempts at ―working out a new musical structure,‖ commenting that ―Wot you posterlate

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