Monday, March 17, 2008

Poetry, Issue 1, Continued

If the Whistler poem isn't Pound st his apex, more credit to Harriet Monroe for recognizing tha incredible talent that was emerging. Modernism, at this juncture, is definitely an iffy proposition, and Poetry is hedging its bets. There's nothing modernist about Emilia Stuart Lorimer, next up on page 9 (did I say page 11 for Pound? That was wrong -- he's 7 and 8) with "Fish of the Flood," a poem swaddled in language that looked backward to a poetic diction that might have seemed a little archaic to Keats, full of thees and dosts and needeths,

Harold Monro, no relation to Harriet but important during the same era, in London, for introducing new poets, said of Lorimer that her poems "may seem almost ingenious through the sheer force of[their] sincerity (quote taken from A New Matrix for Modernism: A Study of the Lives, by Nelljean McConeghey).

I'm ttrying to decide whether I agree that the sheer force of sincerity can ever produce ingeniousness, or whether I see that in "Fish of the Flood." I don't automatically take archaic language as evidence of forceful sincerity.

Fish of the flood, on the banked billow
Thou layest thy head in dreams;
Sliding as slides thy shifting pillow,
One with the streams
Of the sea is thy spirit.

I like the sound of "fish of the flood," and almost like the shifting pillow. See no reason but rhyme for the enjambment on "streams," the only one in the poem, and don't know what the streams of the sea signify -- there are things like the Gulf Stream, but i don't think she's being that precise. I have to say that if this weren't the first issue of Poetry, I wouldn't linger over this -- and again, I like the Georgians, and I very much like some of the sentimental poetry of the 19th Century.

Next up, Helen Dudley, who as near as I can figure out is best known for having had a discreditable episode with Bertrand Russell, when she may or may not have been 16. From Paul Johnson, quoted by Edward Babinski:

Then in 1914 followed a discreditable episode with a young girl in Chicago. Helen Dudley was one of four sisters, the daughters of a leading gynaecologist, with whom Russell stayed while lecturing. According to Russell's account, 'I spent two nights under her parents' roof, and the second I spent with her. Her three sisters mounted guard to give warnings if either of the parents approached.' Russell arranged that she should come to England that summer and live with him openly, pending a divorce. He wrote to Lady Ottoline [his then-mistress] telling her what had occurred.
Babinsky says he doubts that the young lady was really 16, and if she's the same Helen Dudley (seems like yes), she probably was older, because otherwise she'd have been 12 when she appeared in the first issue of Poetry.

There is a schoolgirl quality to the poem,

I have seen the proudest stars
That wander on through space,
Even the sun and moon,
But not your face.

I have heard the violin,
The winds and waves rejoice
In endless minstrelsy,
Yet not your voice.

And it's kind of appealing. I especially like the third stanza:

I have touched the trillium,
Pale flower of the land,
Coral, anemone,
And not your hand.

But it's not the voice of the future, in any measure except Helen's youth.

More anon.

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