The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays (Nonpareil Book, 78): 10 (Nonpareil Books, 10)

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The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays (Nonpareil Book, 78): 10 (Nonpareil Books, 10)

The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays (Nonpareil Book, 78): 10 (Nonpareil Books, 10)

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We miss immediately the achievement upon which the success of the poem depends, its rendering time transparent and negligible, its dismissing the supposed corridors and perspectives down which the historian invites us to look.

I may see something in these works that resonates, but I don't know why, or else only dimly recognize the references. Because of this collapse (which may yet prove to be a long interruption), the architectonic masters of our time have suffered critical neglect or abuse, and if admired are admired for anything but the structural innovations of the work.To defend their then-and still-maligned master Davenport and Kenner had to vividly and concretely communicate his entire intellectual lineage, his often obscure sources and inspirations, his unsuspected sponsorship of Things We Know; to explicate Pound they required a prose that with its combinatory compression, genius for collage, and imagistic piquancy prepared readers for the summa of civilization we are assured is to be found in The Cantos. But even as he grumbled and groused about American illiteracy, he was instinctively lowercase-d democratic, at least insofar as he dignified his readers by trusting them to follow the complex coils of his thinking.

His longtime partner, whom he never married, was a woman; his short stories are a writhing mass of gay trysts. Other highlights are sections on Eudora Welty, James Joyce, Osip Mandelstam (who was previously unknown to me), and anecdotal essays concerning Joyce Kilmer, Wittgenstein, Charles Ives, and Shelley's Ozymandias. Other than sharing a few anecdotes, Davenport completely erases himself from the scene: "Talking about oneself, said Menander, is a feast that starves the guest, and I hope in this essay to keep to the subject I was invited to consider. The same man who enjoyed explicating the most arcane allusions in Pound’s impenetrabilia also observed, earnestly and beautifully, “Two lives we lead: in the world and in our minds.

We brought many things across the Atlantic, and the Pacific; many things we left behind: a critical choice to live with forever. Still, I value quite highly the introduction to the concepts behind this type of poetry, and to the other subjects also, as an extension to an incomplete education. A veritable gateway drug to the likes of Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson, Marianne Moore, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Paul Metcalf, and so, so many more.

Partly because of his focus (the modernists, and particularly Pound) and partly because of his writing style, Davenport’s work reminds me somewhat of that of Hugh Kenner. The Greek says "of Odysseus the loved son," and Professor Lattimore translates "the dear son of Odysseus. A Lamb and volumes of Montaigne and various anthologies of English essays, all with their seemingly compulsory Bacon, were gathered here as well. Charles Ives had written his best music by then; Picasso had become Picasso; Pound, Pound; Joyce, Joyce.

Absolutely stands with the best work of the great bibliophile poets and critics like Borges and Robert Graves - except Davenport is equally as capable of lapsing into Flannery O'Connor-like Southern humor, in the course of telling you about the perambulations of a Latin botanical name that has its roots in Zeus's testicles, or of a summer-school Kentucky teenager out looking for a "poem book on E. Sorrentino is more focused, Davenport is jazzy in that he jumps from ideas to ideas, riffs to riffs. When you see Degas’ dancers or his racehorses, see also his colleague in nineteenth century motion study, Muybridge, the London-born San Francisco bookseller who took up photography after a serious brain injury—he was thrown from a stagecoach whose operator had taken to using teams of half-wild mustangs in a bid to increase speed. Far from wanting a word to be invisible, unassertive, the makeshift vehicle for something else ("idea," "thought"), I want every word to be wholly, thoroughly a word. M. Doughty’s six-volume epic poem, The Dawn in Britain, and for the works of Ronald Johnson, Jonathan Williams and Paul Metcalf.

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