From Luminous Detail to Luminous Debris: Ezra Pound, Gustaf Sobin, and the Modernist Imaginary of Ruins

Author:Patrick Pritchett Time:2019-07-09 Click:

This essay traces the central role that Provence plays in the poetry of Ezra Pound and Gustaf Sobin. For both poets, this region in the south of France was a major site of inspiration, whether as the nexus of troubadour culture for Pound, or as a landscape of remnants left by Roman and Neolithic cultures for Sobin. I will focus on their use of the toponymic aura of Provence and how it enables them to think of the fate of history from within the region’s textual and archaeological ruins. Ruin’s utility as a category for investing poetic form with a new urgency comes from the power of the broken to still speak: not the whole, but the shadow or fragment of the whole. To think in ruins is counter-intuitive: it means resisting, rather than yielding to, the lassitude of entropy. As Pound intuited, it is to write not of last things, but of first things, to attain a kind of lyric degree zero by which ruins revise the ways in which origin signifies.

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