Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Dr. J asks, "QUESTION: Aldous Huxley once noted - and this was when people had access to music on the AM radio! - That because music was so easy to access now, we take it for granted, and thus we tend to diminish its importance and not attend to it consciously as we did when we had to dress up and travel to the concert hall. What do you think of this idea? Does it relate to poetry reading in any way?"

I think Huxley's notion suggest a linear model with music's importance diminishing or increasing along a single line.  I think instead that the role of music has changed.  I love the story Pound tells of how Jefferson hired staff at Monticello who could play instruments so that he could hear music at dinner.  I think music seems very important to many people today, and the easy access to recordings has helped music transform people's lives in ways unknown to the nineteenth century.  I think of how jazz underpinned the Beat Generation and how music helped to shift innumerable paradigms in the 1960's.

I think poetry reading relates in that poetry gives us access to deeper strata of our human history.  Its oral roots go back to preliterate humanity.  I think of how Pound saw Homer as the end of a tradition, the tradition of thousands of years of oral poetry.  We still have oral poetry, but literacy has transformed our perception of it, much as how recordings have transformed our perceptions of music.

Reading poetry can also give us access to the transition from inflected languages like Greek and Latin to modern languages.  Canto One demonstrates this.  Pound took what he perceived as the oldest part of The Odyssey, Odysseus's trip to the Underworld, translated via a sixteen century Latin text, using the alliteration pattern of Old English.  The periplum voyage of this translation gives a history of English poetry, from its classical Greek and Latin and Anglo-Saxon roots via the Renaissance.  Poetry and music can both give us tours of other people's lives, time-binding as Korzybski said.


  1. What a wonderful idea for a blog! I've already learned one new word - periplum.

    How would you rate Tolkien's poetry?

  2. Hugh Kenner finds the concept of the periplum central for understanding The Cantos.