Monday, May 20, 2013

Poetry February 1913


It’s been a very long time since I managed to get on the blog.  In keeping with the theme of the blog, that I’m following along simultaneously with the magazines 100 years later, I’m going to pretend that I’ve turned to the large pile of back-issues on my 1913 coffee table and give a catch-up of the most important details from each issue, at least for Poetry.  Perhaps I will then scramble over the many missed issues of The New Age and salvage what I can, hopefully then settling into a more regular rhythm (pun intended). 

February, 1913

Two things caught my eye in this issue.

First, at the end of the issue the editors take it upon themselves to issue a sort of apologia for Pound’s first poems in the first issue of Poetry (before I started this project).  At issue is the negative response to “To Whistler, American,” in which Pound calls Americans a “mass of dolts.”  I am intrigued by the tone of the editorial, which tries to excuse Pound on the grounds that he had been ignored in America, and is probably right to have left, and probably does have a quarrel:  “Mr. Pound is not the first American poet who has stood with his back to the wall, and struck out blindly with clenched fists in a fierce impulse to fight. Nor is he the first whom we, by this same stolid and indifferent rejection, have forced into exile and rebellion” (169).  A whiff of prophecy clings to that, right? Naturally, by including him in the magazine, they remedy this.  The editors of Poetry are always conscious of the power of their magazine as magazine, as a medium with real power.  This issue shies away from what has come to be known as modernist poetry, perhaps to retrench the magazine’s more serious and respectable side.  The magazine always strives to be moderate, which lends yet more weight to Ann Ardis’ thesis that there are few (if any) strictly modernist periodicals. 

Second, and perhaps less importantly, it published poems by Witter Bynner.  I first heard about Bynner in a backyard party in Fredericksburg, Virginia, from Diane Bachman, who studies him.  She got me interested in him by positioning him as the organizing force behind a now-mostly-forgotten center of modernism in Santa Fe, sort of in tension with Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Taos colony.  I may not be remembering that exactly right.  I’m most interested personally in his co-authored collection Spectra, a brutally funny satire of imagism.  His poems in this issue are earlier than that, and certainly earlier than his Santa Fe period.  None of them stand out to me as particularly excellent, as they are following the (apparently) dead-end version of modernism that tried to make-it-new through increased versification and incorporation of urban themes. 

Edith Wyatt’s rave review of John Masefield’s Dauber uses very familiar rhetoric to advance traditional poetry.  More on this soon, when in a later issue Alice Corbin will rip Masefield hard.  Again, it’s how Poetry (Harriet Monroe?) positions itself in controversy that interests me most. 


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