Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Michael Marcinkowski
Dear Editor,

The flaw in Clive James's reading of the Cantos is that his opinion of them is tainted by his overzealous reading of Pound as a schoolboy ("I could not have been more arrested if I had been caught breaking into a liquor store"), even though he attempts to quash such criticism up front. Looking back at the Cantos, James seems to hope for a follow-through of some grand design, each line pointing to a central argument or point of view. But no one reads Pound like that these days. The Cantos are well known to be deeply flawed, a mass of data, and are read exactly on those terms. It was an amazing attempt that failed. The luster and power of the Cantos for modern readers (those not as far behind the times as James) can be found in their sheer hubristic attempt to build a poem that includes history and all the oddity that goes along with it.

Chicago, Illinois

Originally Published: November 9, 2008

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This prose originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2008

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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