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This paper focuses on the ways in which Ezra Pound chose to represent the female genitalia in his Cantos. What has been less commented on is the ways in which Pound represents the female genitalia. We know that he was not afraid of being crude and some of his early poems—in Blast and Lustra especially—were deemed obscene at the time Stock Taking this biographical factor into consideration is all the more interesting as he came of age during the first wave of feminism which spanned the second half of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century and died in just as the second wave was taking off.
He also had a wife he never left, Dorothy Shakespear, as well as a lifelong mistress, the violinist Olga Rudge. Although this view of him as a successful lover is sometimes qualified Nicholls 72the facts tell us that his romantic relationships worked very much to his advantage. More generally, Pound celebrated goddesses throughout his Cantos and the importance of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, in the very structure of his poem has been identified by various scholars see e. Casillo; Bacigalupo The representation of women as types extends to his closest relationships: Helen Dennis tells us that he identified his wife with the type of the Victorian angel and Olga Rudge with the goddess of love Dennis Simply put, Pound did not see the need for violence in sexual matters.
What makes this more disturbing is the fact that he also refused to acknowledge violence in political matters, more specifically in the case of Italian Fascism Pound There are traces of it in the symbolism of phallic religions, man really the phallus or spermatozoide [sic] charging, head-on, the female chaos. Integration of the male in the male [sic] organ. Even oneself has felt it, driving any new idea into the great passive vulva of London, a sensation analogous to the male feeling in copulation. Gourmont, Pound trans. Feminist thinkers remark that the primordiality of the female may be true from a scientific point of view Greer 30; Millett 30but they emphasise the unimportance of the differentiation which then takes place.
Pound's theory seems to want to tease out a connection between the physiology of heterosexual desire, the image-making faculty and the visionary experience of the mystic or initiate. It is a theory which confers glamour on women and elevates them to the status of mantra or divine muse, but which sits uneasily with a full consideration of the political rights of individual women to autonomy and equality.
Dennis Woman is seen as biologically inferior to man, something of a biological mess at times. Consider this extract from Canto xxix :. The lady says it is Too cold in the palm-room. Des valeurs, Nom de Dieu, et encore des valeurs Pound What we find is thus a synecdochical picture of woman where she is defined by her reproductive system, as a female rather than a woman. Pound also gives us a mixture of five different languages—not including English—in the course of about twenty short lines. Pound thus adopts several personae in the course of these few lines to give us a multiplicity of cultural perspectives, all of which inform his approach to sexuality: it is Woman want real sex Barry Illinois at once masculine, jocular, festive, poetic, and mystic.
It is also sexist in its synecdochical, messy representation of woman and her genitalia. Pound, His anti-Semitism as Woman want real sex Barry Illinois as his Anglophobia would only increase as the Italian Fascist regime grew harsher and more intolerant towards dissidents and people whom it considered inferior in the years leading up to and during the Second World War.
London the cunt of the world. As we shall see later, Pound did not abstain from using Latin words to denote the female genitalia in The Cantos. More simply, the missing word could be a spoken word that Pound, a non-native speaker, did not catch, which fact he thought it would be amusing to include in his rendering of the sentence in his Canto—perhaps knowing that people would imagine something obscene. Whatever the case may be, that word does not appear anywhere and was apparently always meant to remain a mystery to the reader. Leaving a blank allows the reader to fill in what is missing and to imagine what they please.
Pound70but that focus on the sacred dimension of the sexual passages has also meant that commentators have rarely reflected on their explicitness. By way of example, let us consider this extract from Canto vi:. However, because of the later reference to crops, we can conclude that there is indeed a celebration of fecundity in these lines. And hither came Selvo, doge, that first mosiac'd [sic] San Marco, And his wife that would touch food but with forks, Sed aureis furculis, that is with small golden prongs Bringing in, thus, the vice of luxuria; Poundxxvi Pound In this passage Gourmont celebrates the human aptitude to invent a multiplicity of pleasant ways to live: luxuria is also variety in cooking, perfumes, the arts, machinery etc.
We should remark that Pound chose to focus on only two aspects of luxuria in his Cantos and while he condemns one form of overabundance as monopoly, he praises the other as an affirmation of human fecundity. Poundxlv In Canto xlv the poet himself becomes invested with that moral authority as he chooses to use Latin without speaking through a persona. The infertility we witness in the lines concerned with the wedding rite extends to crops, of course, but also to housebuilding:. Hast thou found a nest softer than cunnus Or hast thou found better rest Hast'ou a deeper planting, doth thy death year Bring swifter shoot?
Hast thou entered more deeply the mountain? The light has entered the cave. The light has gone down into the cave, Splendour on splendour! By prong have I entered these hills: That the grass grow from my body, That I hear the roots speaking together, The air is new on my leaf, The forked boughs shake with the wind.
However, as Casillo duly notes, we are also presented with images of nature, several of which imitate the movement of sexual penetration one repeatedly enters the mountain, the hills etc. In this particular instance, Pound mixes two markers of sacredness: the comparison with nature and Latinity. The result was his collection of essays The Spirit of Romance first published in Sexual intercourse, the cultivation of wheat, and the Latin language are connected by their sacredness. It is also possibly an echo of this passage from Canto xxxix :. William Cookson emphasises the spiritual dimension of the Canto and links it with the coitu inluminatio of Canto xxxvi Cookson Both A.
David Moody and Peter Davidson remark on the heavy rhythm which translates the drugged atmosphere of the beginning of the poem Moody ; Davidson Davidson The Latin word cultrix denotes a woman who performs the act of colere.
We find again in that very subtle pun—for Pound, a good Latinist from an early age Stock 12was most probably aware of the multiple meanings of the word cultrix —an allusion to the sacred dimension of coitus.
The alliteration, in [v] and in [k], adds an aural dimension which supports this sacred dimension as the Latin line can be read in a singing voice, like a ritual chant. Additionally, this opulent fabric may recall the snugness of a nest, to which the cunnus is later compared in Canto xlvii.
As ly mentioned, violence is almost consistently erased by Pound, even when he Woman want real sex Barry Illinois to rapes found in classical texts. Because he so staunchly refuses to see it, violence can only remain, partly concealed but never well enough, in the form of ambiguity. This ambiguity is especially present in the representations of female genitalia, which range from the strangely disgusting warmth of familial affection to the bucolic image of the soft nest.
In the Fascist discourse as in the patriarchal, violence is hidden from sight because it is in the interest of the oppressor that his oppression is not recognised as such by his victim. The vagina is never seen as dangerous, even in the case of the morally ambiguous Circe, or as an absence in the Freudian sense Braun and Wilkinson, 19 —although one could argue that there is a lack in that it needs the phallic energy of man to give it purpose.
The morally vested Latin language serves to underline both the sacred the cunnus that is to be penetrated in the rite of coitus, the coitu inluminatio that happens in that process and the sinful usuracontra naturam. Bacigalupo, Massimo. New York: Columbia University Press, Beauvoir, Simone de.
Paris: Gallimard, Braun, Virginia, and Sue Wilkinson. Casillo, Robert. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, Last accessed 3 December Cookson, William. A Guide to the Cantos of Ezra Pound.
London: Anvil Press Poetry, Davidson, Peter. Amsterdam: Rodopi, Dennis, Helen. Ira B. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, In Ezra Pound in Context. Edwards, John Hamilton et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, Paris : Hachette, Gery, John. Last accessed 13 December Gourmont, Remy de.
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