Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ezra Pound's Periplum

Periplum is a word coined by Ezra Pound. It is meant to signify a map as delineated from the perspective of the navigator approaching a landmass, as opposed to a disembodied eye from above. Periplum across time encases history as experienced process, rather than summarized aggregation.

Pound reads Canto I, Odysseus setting back to sea, to Ithaca; translated from the Latin of Andreas Divus, 1538.
(Recorded Washington DC, 1958)

And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
Bore us out onward with bellying canvas...

Elsewhere the Seafarer, from the Saxon.
(Recorded Cambridge, MA, 1939)

May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to the cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
Me feet were by frost benumbed...

Poetry surfaces from the pool of history as a navigator across time. The process resists discrete localization, but is more like the surfacing of impassioned states: one could imagine air gravitating upward, through an atmospheric mass of water, toward more air.

The poetry is often like a gasping

"By no means an orderly Dantescan rising" says Ezra Pound, in the Pisan Cantos, written in the tiger cage at Pisa, Summer 1945.

He was permitted two books in the cage, a Chinese dictionary and a copy of Confucius. Translations of the Confucian Odes:

Yaller Bird

Flies, blue flies on a fence rail

Ol' Brer Rabbit watchin his feet
(Recorded Spoleto, 1970)

In looking outward from history, he accounts for mud and light and everything in between. It is small justice that I do him here, on his 123rd birthday. This is a propitiatory posting. From him, I go forward: Learn limpidity and allow nothing less

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