Because my current reading doesn't excite me greatly, I started working my way through the slim volumes of poetry I've only dipped into. First was The Imagist Poem that my mother gave me in my early teens. This time I read the Introduction. It was largely uninformative and certainly dated, but the poems are- some of them- still lapidary and beautiful. Though I could have done with less D.H. Lawrence, and possibly I'm the only person who thinks the second half-line in Pound's
'Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth,
Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes'
is a flatfooted comedown. (Also, what the hell are you doing with arsenic, Ezra?)
But then I started The Book Cellar Anthology. The Book Cellar began life in the early 60s as a bookstore in a cellar, but in short order moved to a crowded two storey house on Bay St. Crammed with books, difficult of passage, it was where I bought my British ballet magazines and discovered C S Lewis' Perelandra trilogy. It was also a hangout for literary types, and the anthology was put out in the early 70s to showcase various Toronto poets. And oh did it fantod me in spades, being so extremely early 70s in its ethos. So very many young men wanting sex or not getting sex or having sex and feeling ambivalent about it, all in the flattest of free verse, and so very sure that they're not merely the centre of the universe but effectively the only people in it. Their lovers and wives are present only as bodies and have no existence otherwise. No wonder I was confused by and mistrustful of the arty guys I knew at university. They didn't think like human beings.
So far the only poem I like was written by a woman whose collection I already have. Though because I knew her personally, I'm still a tad ambivalent about her myself: Penny basically thought the same way the guys did and was therefore quite at home in a world that made no sense to me. It took me decades to realize that naturally it made no sense to a gay woman: its underlying principle- the primacy of sexual attraction to the Other- was simply foreign to my experience.