Tag Archives: criticism

Politics and Poetry: Ezra Pound

In the last year, I’ve been giving a series of lectures titled Politics and Poetry for The Socialist Party USA. This is an excerpt from the Slam Poetry section of that lecture.


So we’re going to do things a little backwards for this one and look at the poet’s works first before jumping into his biography. This poem penned in 1926 is one Ezra Pound’s most famous poems, in part because of how short it is:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Pound was an American poet, born in 1885 and lived through both world wars and well into the cold war and the conflicts that prevailed during the time (and subsequently died in 1972). This next poem of his is titled “The Coming of War: Actaeon” written in 1917.

An image of Lethe,
and the fields
Full of faint light
but golden,
Gray cliffs,
and beneath them
A sea
Harsher than granite,
unstill, never ceasing;

High forms
with the movement of gods,
Perilous aspect;
And one said:
“This is Actæon.”
Actaeon of golden greaves!

Over fair meadows,
Over the cool face of that field,
Unstill, ever moving,
Host of an ancient people,
The silent cortège.

Ezra Pound is credited as being one of the creators of the Modernist poetry movement with his focus on imagery. He translated Chinese and Japanese poetry and in both his translated works and original works he pushed for clarity, precision, and economy of language. He founded not only several American literary magazines, but he is credited for discovering and shaping poets such as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway.

Image of young Ezra Pound
Via Wikimedia.org

Then came Word War I.

Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl”: When A Writer’s Words Are Used Against Them

"Girls: Season 3" - UK Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals

By now, most people have heard of Kevin D. Williamson’s accusation of “Lena Dunham’s sexual abuse, specifically, of her younger sister, Grace, the sort of thing that gets children taken away from non-millionaire families without Andover pedigrees and Manhattanite social connections.”

But in case you haven’t heard, Williamson is basing his accusation on passages Dunham wrote in her memoir Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”. Passages like:

One day, as I sat in our driveway in Long Island playing with blocks and buckets, my curiosity got the best of me. Grace was sitting up, babbling and smiling, and I leaned down between her legs and carefully spread open her vagina. She didn’t resist and when I saw what was inside I shrieked.
 
My mother came running. “Mama, Mama! Grace has something in there!”
 
My mother didn’t bother asking why I had opened Grace’s vagina. This was within the spectrum of things I did. She just got on her knees and looked for herself. It quickly became apparent that Grace had stuffed six or seven pebbles in there. My mother removed them patiently while Grace cackled, thrilled that her prank had been a success.

And this:

As she grew, I took to bribing her time and affection: one dollar in quarters if I could do her makeup like a “motorcycle chick.” Three pieces of candy if I could kiss her on the lips for five seconds. Whatever she wanted to watch on TV if she would just “relax on me.” Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying.

In an exclusive statement to TIME, Dunham apologized to her fans, saying “If the situations described in my book have been painful or triggering for people to read, I am sorry, as that was never my intention. I am also aware that the comic use of the term ‘sexual predator’ was insensitive, and I’m sorry for that as well.”

Dunham is no stranger to controversy or criticism. On a recent appearance on The Daily Show, the actress and screenwriter admitted that “It can definitely be challenging. It’s not something when you’re writing in your room and dreaming of this career, you’re necessarily like, ‘I’m going to have a TV show and I’m going to write a book and everyone’s going to hate me on the Internet!'” But that, when criticism inevitably happens, she responds with a little bit of “class and sass.” (Below, one can only assume, is the sass.)

 

Putting an End to the Dichotomy of Student and Writer

Last week, I wrote a blog about Nancy Sommers, a Harvard professor, that wrote a piece called “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”. This week, I’m going to look into another article she wrote about getting rid of the idea that one must either be a student or an adult professional writer, but rather how we can be both. This article of hers is titled “Between the Drafts”.

The changes between Sommers’s article on student and professional writers varies greatly from this latest piece, “Between the Drafts.” For one, Sommers’s “Between the Drafts” is much more personal of a narrative and, of course, is more in line with Murray’s piece “All Writing is Autobiographic” (which I also wrote a blog about) than with her own previous work. Sommers addresses the difference in her own writing style early on by stating “I speak in an inherited academic voice; it isn’t mine” (282).

Pictured: Nancy Sommers and her Academic Voice.

My Thoughts on Criticism and Editing

There are differences, really, I swear. First let’s go with the “textbook” definition of each term –

Criticism – The analysis and judgment of a literary or artistic work: “methods of criticism supported by literary theories”

Editing – Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.

The difference essentially is that criticism is a form of educated feedback – it’s saying what is strong about the piece and what is lacking. Editing is correction to a piece – which is taking the work away from the original author, which is fine if you are an editor or asked to correct someone’s grammar or are asked to rework a piece, but, I feel, has no place in criticism.

It is not the job of the critic to rewrite the work; that’s what someone editing does.