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Old 10-11-2017, 01:35 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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Default Jorie Graham in October Poetry


Is it just me, or is there some kind of curious subtext operating here? Usura? Selected passages below.


Prosecute, sentence, waving your thin not-arms like dollar

Why are there moneylenders
you say swatting me away when I ask can I help

Races or places, is it.

here’s where free choice vanished, here rights, here the
real meaning of the word — (you choose) — consequence, capital, commodity, con-

What are they lending you.
How can it be loaned. What is a loan. The changers.
Who gets to keep it. No one gets to keep it. No one. None of it.
What is it. The money changers.

But it won’t stay still as
currency either. It will be changed again.
Shape-shifting and all the other tiny adjustments. Currency
manipulation — feel it — all those other
hands on it, each with its own need, having
held it — grasped, changed, folded, tucked, handed — oh
look it becomes virtual — the fingerprint is lifted off,
its little stain — no one’s need is on it any-
more. It’s clean.

Had been told to live by any means
possible. Did. Beyond, the sea.

We want to be
identified, written-in, collected. Worth me up. Give me my true
value ...
But they are still there on the steps — the money changers. The steps
of evening rise. They want you to exchange. That is the sacrament.

No identification.

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 10-12-2017 at 07:19 PM. Reason: Four lines added.
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Old 10-11-2017, 06:05 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is online now
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You're a better man than I am, Gunga Sam. I got about four lines into it, glanced at the rest, and went back to the football game, or cleaning my toe nails, or whatever, I stopped subscribing to Poetry several years ago, but I guess I'm on their mailing list for life.
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Old 10-11-2017, 06:41 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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I hate him for he is a Christian,
But more for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.
If I can catch him once upon the hip,
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation, and he rails,
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift,
Which he calls 'interest.' Cursèd be my tribe
If I forgive him! (M of V, 1.3.42-52)
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Old 10-11-2017, 07:25 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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Well, Aaron, there's no subtext there, to be sure. Still, no one seems to be providing an answer.
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Old 10-11-2017, 08:00 PM
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Douglas G. Brown Douglas G. Brown is offline
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Maybe its about Bitcoin. I suspect if Homer Simpson read it, he'd say D'oh! I can't improve on Homer.

Last edited by Douglas G. Brown; 10-11-2017 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 10-11-2017, 09:33 PM
john savoie john savoie is offline
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Her poetry does not sustain or reward my interest,
but, yes, she does seem to be riffing like Pound on usury.
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Old 10-11-2017, 10:13 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Originally Posted by john savoie View Post
Her poetry does not sustain or reward my interest,
but, yes, she does seem to be riffing like Pound on usury.
Yes. Both on these. I know a lot of smart people, people who generally have good taste, who really like her work. I have yet to come away from much other than feeling like her work is caught between philosophy and poetry in a way that does justice to neither.

I'll probably try to work through her selected I have again just because, again, enough poetry-minded people like her to make me think the flaw might be with me.

As for her verse here, I suspect you're right on with her taking off from Pound.
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Old 10-11-2017, 10:33 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Andrew: "I suspect you're right on with her taking off from Pound."
Which seems a particularly weird bit of Pound to riff on.

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Old 10-12-2017, 09:23 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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I read the whole thing, twice.

It seems to me a characteristically postmodern, stream-of-consciousness poem with an indeterminate or slippery ‘you’, but I could not miss the strong biblical allusions and the vocabulary of almost prophetic indignation and yearning. At times I strongly suspected that the ‘you’ was the poet referring to herself, some aspect of herself, even what we used to call a soul -- or what timbers of a soul have washed up on the shores of skepticism and modern state capitalism. But she will not call the thing by its name. There’s a heap of punning (including the title, which works with the poet addressing herself), and a couple of brightly offset tropes. The postmodern tergiversation and inability to commit leaves me finally a bit frustrated; perhaps that’s how I am supposed to feel. Perhaps that is how the poet herself feels.

Only my hastily considered opinion. Maybe someone else can find a better hook into it.

Last edited by Michael Ferris; 10-12-2017 at 02:56 PM. Reason: style
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Old 10-12-2017, 10:24 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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I think Sam thinks the poem has an antisemitic subtext, but ultimately I can't agree. Why should the subjects of money, capitalism, lending, borrowing, interest, etc., immediately suggest that Jews are involved, as opposed to a world full of bankers and capitalists of every religious and ethnic background? In fact, I think the reader who immediately associates this world with Jews is perhaps bringing his or her own pejoratives associations into the poem. There really ought to be a way to talk and write about banking without being thought to be talking and writing about Jews in particular.

Also, I'm not really seeing Jorie's poem as being a direct attack on banking or usury the way Pound's was. To me the poem suggests that money lending is the world that is too much with us in Wordsworth, and she is contrasting it with values that do not shape-shift. There is something slippery and mysterious and abstract about money, isn't there, even though it is one of the basic forces that shape our lives?

Finally, I think we come to Pound with full knowledge that he was a raving antisemite, a fact that no doubt accurately colors our reading of the word "usura" when we read that particular canto. Perhaps I have missed something, but I'm not aware of any suggestion that Jorie Graham, whose mother was a Jewish sculptor from Brooklyn and who has had countless Jewish students in her classes and workshops (including me, I should disclose) has any antisemitic inclinations. I do hope that this comment doesn't result in my learning that she has ever before in her 60+ years on earth been accused of such a prejudice.
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