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Crowley and the Imagist poets

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Michael Staley
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A very interesting item was auctioned in Lodon recently. It was the first two volmes of the Collected Works, rebound as one volume. Owned by the poet F. S. Flint, a note from him was tipped in, dated 16th October 1909:

"With this copy of the Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, I introduced Crowley to Edward Storer, poet of “Inclinations”, “Mirrors of Illusion”, and “The Ballad of the Mad Bird”, who, sceptical at first, soon conceived enthusiasm enough to proclaim Crowley a great poet, to go about proselytising for his fame, and to issue his “Mad Bird” under the protection of an epigraph from Crowley. Crowley was first made known by this edition also to J. D. FitzGerald, poet, T. E. Hulme, philosopher & versewriter of an original trend of mind, and Ezra Pound, poet of “Personae” & “Exultations” (issued in 1909), some of whom may make a name. Pound’s “Personae” was the most talked of book of “the season”."

The cataloguer at the auction house added to the lot description:

"A curious association copy that demonstrates the influence of Crowley on the imagist poets".

https://www.forumauctions.co.uk/index.php?option=com_timed_auction&keyword=&name=&excl_keyword=&auction_no=2243&low_estimate=0&high_estimate=0&sort_by=date_desc&ipp=0&page_no=6&bidded_lots=0&view=lot_detail&lot_id=95089

 

This topic was modified 2 months ago by lashtal

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Shiva
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I see. I think (I see). Certain poets who dealt in imagery, who didn't give a toot for other poets' work unless said work was/is capable of producing mental imagery when being read.

These guys read Crowley, got mental images in their heads, and proclaimed him good at writing image-producing writ (poetry, in this case).

I hope I got this right, because if I did, then I agree with the entire concept and nominate it to be considered as Law: "Good writers convey concepts that are not apparent in the words themselves."

Note: In some cases, this can be abstractly defined as Reading between the lines.


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Michael Staley
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You can read more about the imagist poets here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagism

I posted an account of the auction item because Crowley's poetry is after seen as substandard, a harking-back, whereas some in this particular group of poets considered it good work.


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toadstoolwe
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I love Aleister Crowley's poetry, especially his pornographic poems, they are both startling and funny.  "Snowdrops from a Curate's Garden" and The Scented Garden of Abdullah, the satirist of Shiraz (Bagh-i-Muatter)  Needless to say, Crowley crams tons of metaphorical and symbolic language that instruct the reader the gems of his esoteric knowledge. What's often overlooked sadly, it was his detail to graphic design and typography.  (I know I have mentioned this before) But Crowley had a real eye for modern design.  I would point to the first editions of Book 4, Nox Om Pax, Moonchild, The Book of Goetia of Soloman the King. I sincerely believe that Crowley did his own graphic design, or at the very least he oversaw the mechanics of publication.

 

 

 

 


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William Thirteen
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There was a bit more at the bottom as well…

 


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @williamthirteen

There was a bit more at the bottom as well…

Yes, there is. However, when the note was bound into the two books, it was placed rather poorly and some of the remarks have been clipped off and hence lost. The note shows marginally more than the image on the auction website, though not a lot:

"Storer tried to get the Meynells to take Crowley with this edition, but without success, tho' they were impressed when told that Francis Thompson appreciated Crowley. To whom else Storer's . . ."

Francis Thomson was an English poet, a mystic and a Catholic priest who died in 1907.

The reason for my interest in this item is because of the timing of its appearance on the auction website. As part of my daily practices I use invocations, and aim for succinctness of imagery. I had not heard of the Imagist poets before, but was sufficiently interested to look them up. I could see at once the aptness of the Imagists to the direction in which my own work was heading.

Another reason for my posting a notice of this item here is that it is an example of some other poets who found Crowley's poetry good.

 


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toadstoolwe
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@michael-staley I like Ezra Pound also.


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @toadstoolwe

I like Ezra Pound also.

I haven't read any Pound so far. The mention of him in the note by Flint did indicate a meaningful tangent which I'd like to relate.

A few weeks ago, in an earlier auction, I had the feeling that there was something of particular interest, and thus it proved  – a two-volume work by Budge, the first edition of The Book of the Dead. What particularly caught my eye, though, was the description of notes on the flyleaf indicating that it had belonged to the English writer Olivia Shakespear, and after her death had been given to a friend of hers by Ezra Pound, Shakespear's son-in-law and the Executor of her Estate. This caught my eye because my wife, Caroline Wise, has for many years been very interested in Olivia Shakespear and Florence Farr. Thus I drew this to her attention, and we bought that particular lot.

Thus it is of interest to me that Pound again cropped up, in the lot which is the subject of this thread. I've never paid attention to Pound before now, but I will.


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toadstoolwe
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@michael-staley It is interesting to note that the common thread running through all that you describe, was Olivia Shakespear's friendship with Florence Farr, who was friends with Ezra Pound, among others, not insignificantly A.E. Waite.  But getting back to Ezra Pound, I have read a really good book about him entitled:  The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift.  Aside from being a brilliant poet, he was a Pro-Fascist and admired Benito Mussolini.  So much so, that he made propaganda radio programs for him aimed at the Allies.  At the end of the war, he was arrested by the U.S. Army, and placed in a mental institution.  (Was he really insane?  I doubt it)  If you want to read Ezra Pound I would highly recommend his epic poem, The Cantos I-XVI-XCVI_CIX.  It is long and very liturgical in tone, but a joy to read and recite.  I am no scholar of literature, but I know what I like.


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toadstoolwe
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@michael-staley P.S. Pound was a great proponent of Italian Futurism, a literary and artistic movement that roughly co-existed with imagism.


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @toadstoolwe

P.S. Pound was a great proponent of Italian Futurism, a literary and artistic movement that roughly co-existed with imagism.

Thank you for your remarks on and recommendations of Pound's work. Portents and synchronicities are important to my work, as they were to Crowley, Grant, and doubtless many other occultists too.

On another matter, I was surprised to see how flimsy was the paper in these two columes of Crowley's Collected Works. Having said that, both bear the printed imprint "ESSAY COMPETITION COPY", so perhaps it was a cheaply-printed edition.


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toadstoolwe
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@michael-staley Perhaps it was printed on Oxford India paper.  Very delicate and prone to wear.  I am only guessing, but maybe this was a limited edition.  ESSAY COMPETITION COPY?  Your guess is as good as mine.


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christibrany
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@toadstoolwe 

 

I have Pound's Pisan Cantos.  It's quite great.  

Sort of like a poetic Book of the Law in that each time you read even bits of it, it's like a new book. 


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ignant666
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Despite Pound being a raving Fascist and anti-Semite (he renounced both late in life), i too am a big fan of the Cantos. Perhaps the only great art produced by a Fascist. And please let's not have yet another "why i like Fascism" digression here?


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hadgigegenraum
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Not a fan of Pound, but since this site concerns Aleister Crowley, I did find this article by Miles Mathis on Ernest Hemingway which has some interesting material in reference to AC, inclusive of there being a mention of Crowley in Hemingway's A Movable Feast.

The article also discusses Ezra Pound, and mentions that Pound once wrote in favor of Vladimir Lenin, and connects Pound to Crowley through literary circles to which there is mention of John Quinn who I believe was supposed to purchase Crowley's books when AC went to New York, but did not make the grand purchase that AC was hoping for.....which I suppose were the books that later went missing in Detroit!

http://mileswmathis.com/papa.pdf


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gurugeorge
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Posted by: @ignant666

Despite Pound being a raving Fascist and anti-Semite (he renounced both late in life), i too am a big fan of the Cantos. Perhaps the only great art produced by a Fascist. And please let's not have yet another "why i like Fascism" digression here?

Must ... restrain ... self ... 🙂


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @gurugeorge

Must ... restrain ... self ...

A golder opportunity for practising yama, I'd say.


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ignant666
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Posted by: @gurugeorge

Must ... restrain ... self ...

If you can think of any other great art produced by Fascists, without digressing into your views on current events, or discussion of what you perceive as the non-art benefits of Fascism, do post way please.

I would be genuinely curious to see what an obviously intelligent, cultured, and well-read person such as yourself might nominate. i am reasonably knowledgeable about American, British, European, and South American art, music, and literature for the relevant periods, but really can't think of anything else besides Pound's Pisan Cantos.

Maybe the works of P. G. Wodehouse? More of a dupe than a genuine Fascist, and some might say not great art, fools that they are

.


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katrice
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Posted by: @ignant666

Maybe the works of P. G. Wodehouse? More of a dupe than a genuine Fascist, and some might say not great art, fools that they are

Wasn't Roderick Spode based on Oswald Mosley?


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ignant666
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Yes, he was.

And of course Spode's marching group, the Black Shorts, were based on the British Union Of Fascists' Blackshirts (emulating Mussolini's). Sadly, in real life many Fascists are not easily blackmailable because they are secretly designers of lingerie and deeply ashamed of this.

But yes, the depiction of Spode is one of the main reasons we can say P.G. may have been a Nazi dupe, but was not one of them.


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katrice
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Posted by: @ignant666

Yes, he was.

And of course Spode's marching group, the Black Shorts, were based on the British Union Of Fascists' Blackshirts (emulating Mussolini's).  

The joke was it was shorts because they ran out of colors of shirts. 

The guy who played him on Masterpiece was great! 

Posted by: @ignant666

Sadly, in real life many Fascists are not easily blackmailable because they are secretly designers of lingerie and deeply ashamed of this

If only.


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Shiva
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Posted by: @ignant666

any other great art produced by Fascists

Adolf was actually quite good as a street artist ... when drawing buildings. This "fact" is often quoted when pointing out that he could not accurately draw a human being.

 


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kidneyhawk
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Posted by: @shiva

Adolf was actually quite good as a street artist ... when drawing buildings. This "fact" is often quoted when pointing out that he could not accurately draw a human being.

Hitler, like Manson, offers some element of "surprise" when we were experience his work. These figures are so entwined with evil and death that we expect a total expression of this in their art. 

With Hitler we get talented works of a droll and prosaic nature. Nothing to suggest the mass murder and torture of his fellow human being. Also, nothing to suggest emotion, passion or the mind at work. Hitler's Exhibit of Degenerate Art says a lot. He had an ideal in mind and wanted to crush anything assaulting it. Human Emotion and Imagination was an actual threat to him. I have been a die-hard Max Beckmann fan since high-school. Beckmann was on Hitler's list of "Degenerates." That placed Hitler on MINE (and yeah...there was the whole mass-murder genocide thing, also).

Has anyone here seen the AMC adaptation of Ennis' PREACHER? The Hitler HELL scenes are of interest. We all know that Adolph's neurosis was not the only thing which manifested the horror wrought in his name. LOTS of willing folks made the Hell happen. It takes a "Village."

I think Hitler is an example of how talent or skill is never enough in art. One needs VISION. Grandma Moses has more power and vision than Hitler. In fact, Crowley (that "Old Master") had more going on his canvas than Hitler ever did. 

Most kids in Kindergarten have more purity of vision than Hitler with their construction paper and Elmer's glue.  

 


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toadstoolwe
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@kidneyhawk Hitler had no vision?  I take it you mean artistic vision.  Clearly Hitler had a definite vision of art, be it sculpture, painting, architecture.  Of course, it was neo-classicism on a grotesque scale.  Hitler is reported as saying that great civilizations leave behind great monuments of their existence.  National Socialism lasted barely twelve years.  But much of the monumental architecture are still standing, and in most cases still functional.  Hitler wanted to build a monumental art museum in Linz, Austria, his hometown.  The House of German Art can still be seen in Munich.  Italian Fascist architecture blended the best of Futurism and Imperial Rome, and much of it is still standing today.


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @ignant666

I too am a big fan of the Cantos.

What is is about the Cantos that you like so much? Since your post, I've been doing some research, and what I had read so far of the Cantos ntrigues me.

Can you recommend something that publishes many of the Cantos together?


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toadstoolwe
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@michael-staley Penguin Pres is one.  A search on the internet will provide you with various publications, anthologies, etc.  It is NOT an obscure subject.


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ignant666
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I was referring to The Pisan Cantos specifically, as i have not read all of them by any means.

They are just plain strange, very modernist, but very informed by history and tradition, incredibly diverse in form- there is music, French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Chinese, quotes from newspapers and advertisements, unhinged rants about economics and Jews, and just incredible poetry. Comparable perhaps to Eliot or Joyce.

All of the Pisan Cantos are available in one volume, and then there is an i think complete edition of all of them (896 pp.) also:

https://www.bookdepository.com/Pisan-Cantos-Ezra-Pound/9780811215589

https://www.bookdepository.com/Cantos-Ezra-Pound-Ezra-Pound/9780811213264


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @ignant666

I was referring to The Pisan Cantos specifically, as i have not read all of them by any means.

Thank you. Having followed the html links you posted, and read something of the circumstances in which Pound wrote this section of the Cantos, I've just ordered a copy of this work, which sounds really interesting and relevant to a project on which I am embarking.


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gurugeorge
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Posted by: @ignant666

If you can think of any other great art produced by Fascists, without digressing into your views on current events, or discussion of what you perceive as the non-art benefits of Fascism, do post way please.

The most notable "Fascist" art was produced in the earlier part of the 20th century, in the early days of Modernism in art, and in the early days of the movements that became the Fascism we know from the interwar years.  But even if one doesn't think of Fascism or affiliation with proto-Fascism or whatever, a lot of great artists in Europe and America in those days were what would be called "Fascist" nowadays (i.e. they were nationalistic, patriotic, etc.).

To go any deeper would be to risk another thread getting shut down, so out of respect for the forum owner I'll leave it at that.


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ignant666
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Thank you for confirming that you couldn't think of any either. "Vorticism", barely even an -ism, and pre-Fascist, hardly qualifies, nor really the Futurists (the answer i expected). Neither produced much real "great art".

I  would like to say that i heartily join in Wyndham Lewis' condemnation of “wild Nature cranks fraternizing with monkey diabolicals”, as would i think any right-thinking person.


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gurugeorge
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Posted by: @ignant666

Neither produced much real "great art".

Well, it's questionable whether any "great art" has been produced since about the middle of the 20th century.  Lots of people say this or that is great art, but a lot of that is related to investment and other areas it's not possible to talk about.  

I hung out with people from art schools quite a bit in my early years, and one of them in particular invested a lot into it, very smart guy.  I saw him about 20 years after those early days, and he'd retired from the scene, having tried to make it in Berlin for about a decade.  He said the problem is that the field is so fixated on "innovation," on fashion. and on the necessity to have some cute justification from post-Modern philosophy, or Lacan or whatever, that it just became tedious and impossible to compete in (also for reasons of nepotism too - a lot depends on who you know, who you sleep with, etc., but I suppose that's always been a constant).

And looking at it from the other end - a while ago there was a retrospective at the Tate Modern of Soviet Socialist Realist art - you know, Lenin hailing a taxi with mustachioed babushkas harvesting wheat in the background 🙂  And actually some of it is really very good (almost all of it is "technically" good, good in the sense of skill in representational painting, the same skill Hitler had a fair bit of).  It's the same with Fascist art - did Leni Riefenstahl make good art?  Even some people who hate Fascism would have to grudgingly admit yes.  Was the Nuremberg rally great art (as a kind of ritual or "installation")?  Again, many would say yes. But representational art is still so unfashionable that most of the Nazi painters and sculptors wouldn't be admitted, even though many were excellent representational artists, or semi-impressionists.

It depends on what your preconceptions are, what you've been told is good art all your life (what do galleries put on?), and what you believe is good art - even, what you believe is art in the first place.  Is it purely the expression of an individual, or is it the expression of the spirit/aspiration of a people through the individual, or the expression of an ideal, or an idea or a concept?  Does it have to be tied to an individual's craft?  Does it have to be politically activist, or eschew political activism?  Is fashion so intrinsically tied up with art that it has to be "contemporary" (au fait with current art discourse - as in the case of my friend above), or "up to the minute" to be considered good?

Which last brings it it back home: is any of Crowley's art, poetry, etc., good?  Lots of people hate and hated it.  His poetic style was unfashionable at the time - but you get a few people here and there today admitting it's quite good (of its kind).  His painting has a kind of brutal power, but it's technically terrible - does that make it bad?

Ultimately, I suppose the only real test is the test of time: do enough people like the thing enough to preserve it through time?  In that case, you have probably the closest to an objective judgement that's possible.


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hadgigegenraum
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Of course the thread has devolved into the great baiting game, by an member whose avatar's mustache might easily be graffitied to turn into the little dictator all the baiting is at the end of the day rather than something meaningful as regards the poetics of Mr. Aleister Crowley....who I am sure would not have let his work be fiddled by Ezra Pound...

Of course the world of aesthetics is an artificial academic construct ultimately dominated by big money, who of course fund the left and right in the big kabuki, and define political identities to serve the purposes of capital, inclusive of funding the various rabble dupes, be it the Antifa fascists, masked in black uniforms,  servants of Soros the Nazi collaborator, and no different than the FBI's other gangs like Proud Boys etc...Well fascist Biden Pelosi did get their wish to fund the nazi's in the Ukraine with full Republican support...enjoy the coming American Holomodor folks...

Yeah there is lots of so called art in the 20th century, but great gestures of tragedy and comedy, not to mention gentle touches of true humanity ultimately buried, mocked and commercialized...then rehashed to push the latest agenda....

Perhaps Mr. Crowley was never really embraced by the masses pushed into atheism was that AC's atheism was ultimately theistic and also ultimately mocked the new theism of "Self" pushed by the self help industry as an off shoot of faux individualism obtained through the illusion and degradation of choice....."would you like that in chartreuse or burgundy, unfortunately lilac is out of stock"

 

 

 

 


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @hadgigegenraum

the poetics of Mr. Aleister Crowley....who I am sure would not have let his work be fiddled by Ezra Pound...

The opening post of this thread highlighted a note by an English poet, Flint, to the effect that he had interested some of his colleagues in Crowley's work, including Pound. Why on earth should Pound seek to "fiddle" Crowley's work? What form do you think this "fiddling" might take? Are you able to demonstrate any "fiddling" of Crowley's work by Pound?


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Shiva
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Posted by: @hadgigegenraum

Antifa fascists ... masked in black uniforms ... Soros the Nazi collaborato ... the FBI ... Proud Boys ...  Biden Pelosi ... the nazi's ... American Holomodor ...

Good Lord, man!  Multiple off-topic screeches, all tumbled together in a rambling synthesis of Third Reich Democracy. There is a tendency toward thread-locking these days. Rants should therefore at least mention  the topic ("imaginary pots") and try to keep the unrelated offshoots to two, or less.

 


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hadgigegenraum
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@michael-staley 

Pound fiddled with T.S. Eliot, which is not to blemish Eliot's mastery and greatness, but I think T.S.'s statute was thrown over by the parents of the woke a long time ago, but maybe not but the wasteland it presently is or St,John's tide Witsun so sunny smiles as i gawk at a nest of blue jays to which dinororastic display of growth punctuates such nurtured sweetness of caring parents from first sprigs of roost to so be the nest of a brood fast in weeks fly bye...

No Crowley did not take up literary styles that would  liberate poetry, and one where Liber L. could be so classified as certainly a revolution and phase shift in poetics as it can be demonstrated that the gods indeed do speak...the poetic museumscapse of references from antiquities of various dead cultures and languages, of which Pound and Crowley were masters...actually escapes the museum...

Pounds voicing in the Pisan, (thanks @ignant666 good bait) for what i have read, speak as though roaming western plains where his song rolls and is found in the freedom of punctuations and conventions of verse and rhyme that AC work was trapped...

When i see Chinese ideograms i do think of C.F. Russell whose pages of his work are hieroglyphic and do engage ideograms, which of course AC had done long before...

Pound probably was really a cut up artist....

There probably be more cut up Crowley novels, but this books were too rare, or coveted...

 

 

 

s


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @hadgigegenraum

Pound fiddled with T.S. Eliot

I'm still in the dark as to what you mean by some poet or other "fiddling" with the work of another. Eliot wrote his poems, and that surely is that. Most if not all of us are influenced by the work of others, distilling our own work utilising these influences, transformed through our own experiences. Perhaps Pound was influence by Eliot, and Eliot was influenced by Pound; how does "fiddling" come into it?

 

Posted by: @hadgigegenraum

Pounds voicing in the Pisan, (thanks good bait) for what i have read, speak as though roaming western plains where his song rolls and is found in the freedom of punctuations and conventions of verse and rhyme that AC work was trapped

A copy of the Pisan is on its was to me, so I'll soon be able to expperience it. I don't agree that Crowley's work was trapped in "conventions of verse and rhyme"; he often used such "conventions" but there's no entrapment. Take, for instance, a section from The Ship:

Thou, who art I, beyond all I am,
Who hast no nature and no name,
Who art, when all but thou are gone,
Thou, centre and secret of the Sun,
Thou, hidden spring of all things known
And unknown, Thou aloof, alone,
Thou, the true fire within the reed
Brooding and breeding, source and seed
Of life, love, liberty, and light,
Thou beyond speech and beyond sight,
Thee I invoke, abiding one,
Thee, centre and secret of the Sun . . .

The "verse and rhyme" here doesn't "trap". Rather, it is hyypnotic, cumulative, and thus used to good effect. From the first time that I read these verses, decades ago, it's been my favourite piece of work by Crowley: delicious, insping, an epithany.

 


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hadgigegenraum
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@michael-staley 

Having thought that it was fairly well known that Ezra Pound had edited T.S.Eliot's poem 'The Wasteland', I thought it might be apropos to say that Crowley would not have allowed, that which I termed 'fiddling' to transpire...though one might speculate that perhaps such a literary relationship might have ended up....which is why I brought up the thought....

As to the word, 'fiddling', I suppose can be immediately taken as pejoratively and with innuendo, but if thought of from a musical perspective, than one might divine a violin in one's mind...

No i am not of the opinion that AC only wrote a few lines of good poetry, and  I agree with your insights as regards The Ship...thanks for the example!


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Michael Staley
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Posted by: @hadgigegenraum

Having thought that it was fairly well known that Ezra Pound had edited T.S.Eliot's poem 'The Wasteland', I

No, I hadn't realised that. However, "fiddling" makes it sound prejorative; if Eliot hadn't liked Pound's editing, he would likely have said so. Why not simply say "editing" instead of "fiddling"? I agree with you that Crowley would have been unlikely to have brooked any such editing. Eliot seems to have looked up to Pound and to have considered him the great ercraftman; I doubt that Crowley would have regarded anyone in a comparable role.

I'm glad to hear that you share my appreciation of The Ship. After I had posted, I reflected that the Preliminary Invocation of The Book of the Heart Girt with the Serpent ("I am the Heart; and the Snake is entwined . . ." etc.) is broadly comparable in terms of effect.


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toadstoolwe
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@michael-staley To you all you erudite Thelemites, I dedicate Aleister Crowley's Poem: Empty-Headed Athenians.  Kind of sums it all up in my humble opinion.


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gurugeorge
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Posted by: @michael-staley

The "verse and rhyme" here doesn't "trap". Rather, it is hyypnotic, cumulative, and thus used to good effect. From the first time that I read these verses, decades ago, it's been my favourite piece of work by Crowley: delicious, insping, an epithany.

Yeah I'd agree with that.  It always struck me that while Crowley's poetry was kind of old-fashioned and "Swinburnian/Romantic" on the surface, it actually had streaks and flashes of modernism in its use of occasionally jarring turns of phrase.  That was always a metric for me with his poetry.  Some of his poetry has acres of sleep-inducing Swinburnian stuff.  Lovely in a rhythmical sense and beautifully rhymed, but a bit of a drone.  But I feel his best stuff has that occasional, slightly startling modernist quality to it.


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