Friday, November 11, 2011

An election statement from Titus Books

[Let's face it - the latest election campaign here in New Zealand has been a rather dull affair. Capitalism may be in crisis in Europe, and the Arab world may be convulsed by popular uprisings, but down here in God's Own Country debate on the hustings has revolved around the rival personalities of John Key and Phil Goff. The National government has sought, throughout this election season, to distract attention from weighty economic and philosophical issues, and its strategy appears to have succeeded.

I suspect that there is a relationship between the gravity of the economic and political issues facing the north and the trivialities which currently preoccupy us in the South Pacific. Perhaps New Zealanders are so grateful that their country has not yet suffered the economic fate of the Greeks and Italians that they are happy to luxuriate in a whimsical and trivial political discourse.

Given the rather uninspiring nature of the election campaigning, I hope that even hardened political junkies won't mind me posting a press release from Titus Books which tries to put the poll on the 26th of November into perspective.]

On the 27th of November Vote for Literature!

A Statement by Titus Books

On Saturday the 26th of this month New Zealanders will go to the polls to elect a new government.

Informed, thoughtful voting is a necessary part of life in a democratic society, and the upcoming election has rightly generated thousands of pieces of writing - manifestos issued by parties, leaflets left in letterboxes by candidates, blogs set up by party propagandists, letters to newspapers by irate or delighted prospective voters, and analyses by trained and untrained political scientists.

But the mass of writing our election has created will have a short life span. From the morning of the 27th of November onwards it will be of interest only to political historians and paper recyclers. As the old saying goes, in politics even a week is a long time.

The great modernist poet Ezra Pound said that literature was news that stayed news, because it dealt with problems and questions that were rooted deep in humans and in societies. Since 2005 Titus Books has been publishing poetry, short stories, novels, and essays. The writing we publish rarely wins large audiences, but it doesn't go out of date either.

Publishing books is unfashionable in the twenty-first century. We at Titus have often been told by media pundits and self-styled technology gurus that the book is dead, or at least dying, because it is incompatible with the digital age, when people supposedly think visually rather than verbally, and when everyone is allegedly too busy checking their cellphone or e mail to do the sort of deep, exploratory, creative reading that great writers like Blake and Joyce and Peake have traditionally demanded.

We at Titus Books disagree with the cliches of the anti-literature crowd. We think that literature is as important to a healthy society as polling booths or public hospitals or vaccinations against tuberculosis. Election leaflets and billboards may tell citizens what to think, but poetry and literary prose remind them how to think, and how to feel. By taking us away from the buzz and blare of twenty-first century media and technology, literature helps reconnect us with our deepest convictions and emotions, and reminds us of the treasure houses of human history and culture.

We invite Aucklanders to vote for literature on Sunday the 27th of November, by attending the launch of two new Titus Books, Scott Hamilton's Feeding the Gods and Bronwyn Lloyd's The Second Location. Scott Hamilton is a widely published social scientist, and has a long history as a political commentator and activist. In Feeding the Gods, his Creative New Zealand-funded second volume of poetry, Hamilton draws on his involvement in a number of political and cultural controversies, like the ultimately successful battle to remove the Vanda 'the vandal' Vitali from her position as Director of Auckland museum, the movement against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq last decade, campaigns against the desecration of Maori sacred sites and history, and the battle against this country's Holocaust deniers. Hamilton also writes about more personal subjects, like the suicides of a number of his schoolmates at South Auckland's Rosehill College in the 1990s, his travels through the backblocks of New Zealand, the Outback of Australia, and Western Polynesia, and the bizarre dreams which are a side effect of the prescription drugs he must take for a chronic injury.

Hamilton's poems may deal with many topical issues, but they do not feature easy judgements or political sloganeering. Hamilton is preoccupied by history and by geography, and many of his poems create an eccentric perspective on contemporary problems by dissolving the boundaries between the past and the present, the near and the far. In Feeding the Gods historical figures like Hongi Hika and Karl Marx wander contemporary Australasia, the Outback fills with water, Ulysses cruises the South Pacific, and Maoist guerrillas quote postmodern poetry.

Bronwyn Lloyd is known for her careful reconstructions of the lives of Kiwi painter Rita Angus and composer Douglas Lilburn, and for the beautiful art books she produced for Pania Press. The short stories in Lloyd's The Second Location have the insights into the subtleties of human relationships which made her scholarship valuable, and the attention to detail which distinguished her work for Pania. Under Loyd's intense but not unsympathetic gaze, even small events like a civil servant's filing error or a visit to the beach become filled with significance. Bronwyn Lloyd's work shows us that the lives we live in our homes and in our minds can be far more dramatic than anything we see on television, and that the daily choices we make as friends and as family members can be as fateful as the doings of politicians or corporate executives.

In their different ways, Hamilton's and Lloyd's books show the continuing vitality of literature in the second decade of the twenty-first century. They are, in Ezra Pound's words, news that stays news. Titus Books is proud to ask you to vote for literature on the 27th of November.

Feeding the Gods and The Second Location will be launched at Objectspace Gallery, 6 Ponsonby Road, from three o'clock onwards on Sunday the 27th of November. There'll be beer, wine and plenty of home-baked food, plus a range of Titus titles to sample.

[Posted by Maps/Scott]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wasn't ezra pound a fascist?

if so how can be an advertisement for democracy????????

12:02 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

He was pretty much but his insights in literature were often profound. Olson for example hated his anti-Semitism but admired his method and his huge talent.

You can learn paradoxically, in a negative way (Charles Bernstein writes about this in an essay "Pounding Fascism" in 'A Poetics', about politics form Pound, as one of his friends, Paul Zukofsky (Jewish as is Bernstein) ignored the anti-Semitism, stayed "loyal" to Pound and wrote a book 'A' that was centered around diverse (but perhaps more friendly issues), for example Marxism and the music of Bach, or, indeed, some "personal" issues. Olson had political interests but was certainly not a fascist (but also probably not particularly "socialist" (but he "flirted" with Maoism and understood sociology an archeology and history as did Pound in his own way, and it seems that such as Mark Nowak (see the precious post by Maps) is continuing the tradition (including the local and the "human" of WCW's (and Olson) and the democratic ideals of Olson and so to speak and building something quite strong and writing class centered (if that is "good", however defined). But all using the poetical-political "rebellion away from traditional poetic forms that the language poets also continued with their interest in the political-philosophical which brings us via Marxism again.

Pound's fascism began, I am told, with his abhorrence with what was happening in WWI (his friend the sculptor-poet Gaudier Brzeska died in the war) but it is clear his passion and his eccentricities lead him away into Cuckooland...but his ideas and ideals in poetics remain important

But you are right to point this out. Pound is indeed problematic.
I don't know who wrote this post (probably Dr. Brett of Titus) but I doubt he is a proponent of the 'bad' sides of Pound. Pound in his obsession with say credit and "usury" and Jews being "behind it all" is clearly not someone anyone in or associated with Titus would want to admire, but the Pound of his beautiful poetry (at its best) and his radical new ideas in aesthetics etc is a model in that sense...

Also it is possible, by studying biographies of such people, to see how fascism can "get that attention of all kinds of people...

5:18 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

One problem, in my view, is Pound’s inability to really understand science and economics, wile he was "good with his hands and practical”, he lacked "real life "experiences with working people. Yeats and Eliot, the other modernists, even more so.

His friend Williams Carlos Williams (embarrassed I would say by Pound’s ravings (propaganda on radio from Italy) during WWII), however, was a doctor who certainly attended to "ordinary working people" in Patterson USA. While he understood the role of imagination and had a deep interest in modern art, he also knew about "reality" sometimes focusing on small details (paper bags, trees, jazz music, old women shopping) or writing about crowds, or his father’s death, or the birth of a child and suffering of women in child birth, or the death of his own grandmother and much else. But he was also interested in philosophy & art.

Even the "working class” writer Mark Nowak has a wider ranger than simply the class struggle but he goes further than Pound or, say, Williams.

But we can admire the poetry of someone such as Wallace Stevens, or even the recently deceased NZ innovative writer Leigh Davis, both successful businessmen, without being prejudiced against their corporate positions accepting any right wing views they might have had.

This divide between a poet’s views and his philosophy has given rise to strong debate (at one stage, in the Magazine Brief* which is (now) associated with Titus books, John Geraets (the editor at the time) and Scott and myself debated whether poetics should enter literature and also whether we could respect or accept such a person as Leigh Davis, separate from his poetical and art-related work who was indeed associated with big business); and this "debate" is ongoing.

Also, is everything, in some way, political? And other issues, also, arise.

* Started as ABHOTWW

5:18 pm  
Anonymous AHD said...

Would love to go Scott, but, alas, am restricted by geography.

Any way I can purchase the book in Christchurch?

6:04 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Andrew,

how are the bookshops doing in Christchurch? There was one (I forget its name) which regularly took Titus products, but I wonder whether it might be out of action at the moment, since it is located in the centre of town?

You don't fancy a review copy, do you? It would be a great pleasure to critiqued by someone as lucid as yourself! Your work for Kea and Cattle has not gone unnoticed up here...

10:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both books sound good. I hope to be there.
I winced though at seeing the foaming-at-the-mouth murderously-racist-fascist Pound being quoted in a plea for literature to be considered more important than elections. However much one can defend poems by fascists, as Richard so eloquently does, (but not poems like Yeats' notorious marching song for the Irish fascists), it is disappointing that Titus should be so blind to the world outside literary stylistic concerns as to quote Pound in a piece about elections. One could make the same point and draw inspiration not from the poisonous Pound but from the harmless Proust who lamented the fact that we don't get Shakespeare's plays delivered at our doorsteps everyday and keep the gossip and petty-crime for dusty volumes on the top shelf?


1:58 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

It'd be great to see you there Farrell. I'll pass your interesting comments on to Titus. I am torn about Pound, I suppose. I do rate him more highly, as a person that Eliot: where Pound seems to have been a big-hearted man outraged into madness by the Depression and World War One, Eliot reminds me of a stuffy English bloke sniggering at darkies and Jews from behind a large G and T.

You may have seen the post, but I talked about this stuff in relation to Ted Jenner and his love of Pound a couple of months back:

11:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott. I had missed your earlier Pound piece. I would hate to have to choose, on a personal level, between the ghastly Eliot and the poisonous Pound!

Pound's vile racism infected the Cantos from at least the early thirties. I don't think he was mad --unless racism is madness.
But to get back to art: wouldn't you say that "The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough" was (one of?) the first haiku in English rather than a fragment?


12:07 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi Farrell,

can it be a haiku if it comprises two separate moments? I always thought (though I could have been mistaken - I don't know much about Japanese literature) that a haiku reproduced a moment in time. Perhaps Pound's poem consists of two juxtaposed haiku, though?

10:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Scott.

Haiku, for all their brevity, do often combine two elements.
One of my favourites, by Buson, manages three elements--even if one is absent:

Nano hana ya
kujira yorazu
umi kurenai.

Rape flowers
No whale in sight
The sea darkens.

You are right about haiku being focussed on one moment.
Isn't the Pound piece though the result of two images being bound together through one moment of perception?


1:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. That last line should be:
"Umi kurenu."


11:26 pm  

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