Philosophy as Rigorous Poetry (5)

Unaffected by “the march of events,”
He passed from men’s memory in l’an trentiesme
De son eage; the case presents
No adjunct to the Muses’ diadem.

Ezra Pound, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

The year I turned thirty, when I was studying “thought translation” in Tübingen, I took the time to read some philosophy in German. In the bookstore, I was seduced by the plainly printed editions of individual essays, like the Günther Neske “opuscula” series “aus Wissenschaft und Dichtung”, in which I read Heidegger’s Die Frage Nach der Teknik. I also bought the Klostermann Texte edition of Edmund Husserl’s Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft. Long before reading it, Ezra Pound had taught me about Basil Bunting’s formula “dichten = condensare,” which he discovered, we are told, when he was “fumbling about with a German-Italian dictionary,” and let’s imagine that, as I walked along the Neckar, past Hölderlinturm let’s say, after fumbling with a dictionary of my own, the words “Philosophie als strenge Dichtung” came to me. You can believe that or not, but you can look the next thing up yourself. Husserl’s essay consists of 97 paragraphs, numbered in the margins, which filled 50 pages of Logos when it was originally published in 1911. The 1965 Klostermann edition includes a “content analysis” that provides a condensed, one-sentence* summary of each paragraph. Enough said.


This is the last of twenty deliberate paragraphs that I planned to write, one a day, over the past four weeks. Before that, I had written a spontaneous daily blog post — less structured and less disciplined. Both experiences have, of course, been instructive. Over the next four weeks, I will be writing two paragraphs during an hour every morning. My goal with this process is to write about 6000 words towards a book for students and scholars about how to write papers. This time, however, I will not be posting my work daily to the blog. Instead, I will write a weekly blogpost about the process.

*Since I dared you to look it up, I should probably come clean that “one sentence” is a bit of a stretch. It’s how I prefer to remember it — as a key sentence outline.

2 thoughts on “Philosophy as Rigorous Poetry (5)

  1. There’s this story that Ezra Pound was a great poet with unhinged political views which tarnished his fame.

    But is it possible that it’s the reverse, that he was a charismatic and well-connected guy, sort of like Gertrude Stein but with a little bit more talent, and that his activities during WW2, which led to his trial and confinement, boosted his fame in a way that makes people see him as a more important artistic figure than he really was?

    1. I don’t think that holds up under scrutiny. Mauberley is from 1920. And the Cantos were recognized before and after WW2.

      Sure, you can never separate someone’s fame entirely form their infamy, but I think he was just both: a great poet and failed fascist.

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