Sunday, June 18, 2006

Advice for Aspiring Poets

In the spring of 1935
I gave you my poems, Ezra.
And you read them
And spat on them
And told me to publish yours
Because that’s all I was good for.

But I never listened, completely.
So I went in new directions
And I became “il Catullo Americano”
Even to The Saturday Review.

Now you are dead
And I am dead
And as our works are read
It is I who has the last laughlin
While you are the ass-pound of poetry.

- - -

Written in response to the Quick muse
challenge betweenJonathan Galassi and
Marge Piercy on June 14, 2006. The
challenge gave them 15 minutes to write
on the following quote by James Laughlin

"New Directions was born one morning in
Pound's study, when he was going over
some of my poems, in the spring of 1935.
He was crossing out most of my words.
Finally, he said: 'Jas, you're never
going to be any good as a poet. Why don't
you take up something useful?' 'What
would that be?' I asked him. 'What would
be useful?' He thought for a moment and
suggested, 'Why dontcher assessernate
Henry Seidel Canby?' (Canby was the editor
of The Saturday Review, who always gave
Ezra's books bad reviews.) 'I'm not
smart enough,' I told him. 'I wouldn't
get away with it.'

He thought some more. 'You'd better become
a publisher. You've got enough brains for

He promised that if I could learn 'to
print books right side up,' he would
let me be is publisher and would persuade
his friends to let me do some of theirs.
And that's how it worked out. He gave me
his book Kulchur, William Carlos Williams
gave me his collection of poems A Glad Day,
and Djuna Barnes allowed me to reprint


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