The Dial and American Poetry (4/8)

I found it interesting to place the "Paris Letter" by Ezra Pound and "Two American Poets" within the same issue. There is certainly a sense of the commercial when people refer to America. Everyone knows about iconic American movies and the next American blockbuster because there is such a great (as in large) investment in advertising and marketing. 

Ezra Pound writes, "Market as applied to the arts has NOT worked. Nobody with any knowledge of poetry or the fine arts has ever, I think, claimed that it did work" (The Dial 551). Even though marketing is found on each end of the magazine for various sources and within via book reviews, marketing in the arts ultimately fails. He talks about the need for the literate consumer and that the production of content relies upon the tastes of the consumer. After all, this magazine/journal is supported by its subscribers. Subscribers are in complete control of whether they continue to give money and support the production. Funnily enough, Pound added his own twist to The Little Review's subtitle claiming to be above the tastes and whims of the general populace, but one does have to eat and pay production costs. Malcom Cowley almost seems to contribute to Pound's piece by stating, "America remains a thing seen and not a manner of seeing. America is... a subject" (567). American writing is developed by people from all backgrounds and by people moving abroad; it is commercial, in a sense. American poetry is made to be seen by others.

"Two American Poets" was a great section to make me think. Malcom Cowley is viewing American poetry and trying to decide on what is distinct about it. He says, "There is no poetry so deeply rooted in our soil and tradition that a foreigner can never fully understand it, and I doubt whether such a poetry is to be desired" (The Dial 567). If I myself think back on older American works, many are written by British subjects and those moving back and forth across the ocean. By nature and circumstances, the work of these authors has an element of various cultures melding into one. Even now, many American works draw upon the ideas and traditions of various cultures.

Questions for Class: 

  • Does "Two American Poets" point toward a transatlantic nature in American poetry? 
  • How do magazines and  journals form a transatlantic style in their configuration and inclusion of various pieces and authors?


Some good observations here. Let's be sure to discuss "Two American Poets" in class.