Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vain Repetitions

I started reading "A"-10 this morning, which deals with the Nazi occupation of Paris. So far I have completed each section on the corresponding day. Friday looks like a challenge, with the long section 12. I remember the first time I tried to read the "A" 1 - 23 during Advent two years ago. I didn't finish section 12 on 12/12/12/ as I recall. I do remember that I had a cold.

Two years ago I read Barry Ahearn's book on "A" while reading the poem, and that helped me understand it. Last year the memory of the Ahearn book still seemed fresh. This year the poem makes less sense to me. You might say, why not reread the Ahearn? Well, I don't want to rely on his interpretations too much. I want to confront the poem on its own terms. I remember that Roland McHugh devoted a few years to Finnegans Wake before reading any of the secondary materials. Hugh Kenner said of Peter Makin's wonderful book Pound's Cantos that Makin never lost sight of the Cantos' difficulties.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Catullus 21

Well, I don't get much sense from the Zukofskys' translation. They chose against frankness in their translation, although they capture much of the music of the Latin.  I just finished reading a book called How to Read a Latin Poem - If You Can't Read Latin Yet, from which I learned that classical Latin authors tended to avoid explicit sexual language in love poems, but they used if profusely in poems of invective such as Catullus 21.

I've begun my annual Advent reading of "A". It has put me in the mood to listen to Bach. Some people, like Pound, Zukofsky, and Michael Johnson, see Bach as the greatest composer in the European tradition. Others, like Robert Anton Wilson and myself, tend to see Beethoven in that position. I thought about this driving into work this morning. I think the composers I first fell in love with prepared me to prefer Beethoven to Bach (much as I love Bach's music). A teacher in first grade played Haydn's Surprise Symphony for us, and I thought it the greatest thing I'd ever heard. I grudgingly approved of Beethoven at the time because he studied with my man Haydn. I studiously avoided the fact that Beethoven didn't like Haydn as a teacher and had few kind word for Haydn until the end of Beethoven's life.  A few years later I glanced at a collection of light classical music from my parents' collection and noticed a composer who shared my last name. Wagner and Haydn lay the groundwork, and I started listening to Beethoven around seventh grade, an eight track of Van Cliburn playing some famous sonatas.  I really fell for Beethoven at eighteen. I had a cold and stayed home from my summer job at IBM. I put on Toscanini's recording of the Seventh Symphony and entered a whole new world.