[Wgcp-whc] WGCP--Minutes, Marinetti 2/3

richard.deming at yale.edu richard.deming at yale.edu
Sun Feb 12 15:02:58 EST 2006


On Feb 3, scholar/poet/editor/novelist Paolo Valesio met with the Working Group
in Contemporary Poetics to discuss the work of the Italian futurist, F. T.
Marinetti, (1876-1944). Professor Valesio framed the discussion along the lines
of his argument that while Marinetti is crucial to understanding Futurism?and
one cannot imagine discussing Marinetti without touching on his central role in
that movement?readings of Marinetti?s work are generally overdetermined by
this particular lens.  Because of that, the nuances of Marinetti?s
thinking?-and especially its paradoxes--are often ignored as critics bend the
work to fit its critical codification.  The implications of that are clear: the
texts themselves are obscured.  While it was not the main focus of our
conversation, the familiar subtext of the complications and implications of the
ethics of critical deformation acted as basso continuo of the session.

We began the discussion by looking at a late work of Marinetti?s entitled
?The Landscapes of Judea Speak among Themselves about the Worthy House,?
which comes from The Aeropoem of Jesus.  Valesio explained that Marinetti?s
aeropoems were conceived less as a specific form and more as poems written from
a particular perspective as from an airplane. Such a perspective allows for a
kind of earthbound yet transcendental viewpoint by which material reality and
symbolic possibilities could blur together to have a dual existence.  In this
way, Marinetti stands as a unique figure that challenges the common view of
modernism as attacking symbolism.  Marinetti, in this long work and elsewhere,
is able to bring symbolism and modernism into conversation (though never quite
synthesizing the two), indicating the ways that he was steeped in French
symbolism and yet sought to use literature to affect social realities. For
those who read Marinetti only in terms of futurism, ?The Landscapes of
Judea? might be a puzzling kind of aberration in that it is marked by
Marinetti?s mysticism and his interest in creating a spiritual poetry. ?Art
is an original prayer,? the poet writes, ?and like the religion that wants
no intermediaries it rises in direct connection with God the Father.?  It
becomes difficult to square such an antinomian claim for art with Marinetti?s
fascist program.  Professor Valesio points to this as well as a number of other
texts by the poet that indicate that Marinetti?s thinking was dialectical,
rather than monolithic, and yet only the openly fascist elements have been
foregrounded.  This leads to what amounts to a repression of Marinetti. This
repression is actually demonstrably likely in that the vast majority of his wok
still has never been in print.  Thus, claims about Marinetti are based on just a
fraction of his oeuvre and these privilege some of the poet?s claims (mainly
those found in various manfesti) while completely ignoring other claims that
form his overarching poetics.

While the fascism cannot be overlooked the question rises whether that negates
any other value that his body of work might have.  As might be expected, Ezra
Pound was invoked as certainly criticism and scholarship surrounding Pound?s
work still negotiates his problematic politics and indeed many have found that
there is still a condemnation of the work because of his being charged with
treason.  In comparing the two, it becomes clear what the differences are in
terms of the ongoing reading of their respective political registers.  Pound
was labeled a traitor and Marinetti was a nationalist. Marinetti then is a sign
of his historical and cultural moment, however problematic that might be.  The
difference between the two can be seen in terms of contemporary reception.
Thus, Professor Valesio explained, in contemporary Italian poetry, particularly
the younger generations, Pound has become a seminal figure with his problematic
politics being dismissed because the poet was an eccentric American. 
Marinetti, however, is ignored or, again, repressed, because of his
nationalistic (and this for some, embarrassing) investments.  The question that
remains unresolved?as one expects it might always be?is how contemporary
readers might learn to critically balance historical importance, aesthetic
innovation, and unconscionable politics in authors and artists. When asked if
he saw his work resituating Marinetti in a context that extracted him from only
being a futurism, thereby allowing his spirituality, mysticism, and esotericism
to come to the for as act of critical redemption for the poet, Professor
Valesio explained that he saw it as an act of reading the oeuvre on its own,
full terms.

At the end, Professor Valesio was asked how his reading of Marinetti impacted or
influenced his own poetry. He explained that Marinetti?s ambition in
attempting to create an entire cosmogony made him less a figure that he could
emulate and more one that continually challenges him in terms of scope and
intensity. In terms of scope and intensity, however, we could not have asked
for a better discussant. Paolo had long been on our list as the most sought
after visitor and all agreed that it was one of the most informative and
provocative sessions we had had with an invited discussant.  The group again
extends its thanks to Professor Valesio for his willingness to meet with us and
discuss his work on such an important and controversial poet.

Speaking of controversial, we next turn out attentions to the work of Charles
Olson (1910-1970), whose name has been our list since the group?s inception. 
We finally turn our attention to one of the largest figures in American poetry
(at least in terms of his physical stature) of the mid-Twentieth Century on
this coming Friday, February 17.  The reading packet is already available and
waits at the Whitney Humanities Center.  For this session we will focus on work
outside of Olson?s Maximus poems. We will also look at his landmark essay,
?Projective Verse.? Below is a link to Olson reading ?In Cold Hell,?
which is worth a listen.  I?ll also provide a link to a site that is tied to
the recent colloquium ?Olson Now? that occurred in December.  See various
essays there that contextualize Olson and his legacy in the present moment,
including pieces by Clayton Eshleman, Pierre Joris, and Anne Waldman.



Finally, since the Beinecke is on of our co-sponsors I?ll include the
announcement of a talk to be given at the Beinecke by one of the library?s
fellows that should be of particular interest to our group.

Please join us next Wednesday, February 15, at 2:00PM for a talk titled

Ezra Pound's Dialogue with his Literary and Historical Sources
Mark Byron, Beinecke Visiting Fellow, will speak about the ways in which Pound
marshalled his sources in compiling his monumental poem, The Cantos.

The presentation will take place in room 39 at the Bienecke Library, and a
reception will follow on the Mezzanine.

Your humble servant,
Richard Deming, Secretary, Scribe, and Scrivener

?The Working Group in Contemporary Poetry and Poetics meets every other Friday
at 3.00 PM in room 116 at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University to
discuss problems and issues of contemporary poetry within international
alternative and /or avant-garde traditions of lyric poetry. All are welcome to

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