Literary daybook, July 17

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

By the Salon Books Editors
July 17, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)
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Today in fiction

On July 17, Frank Beachum is scheduled to be executed.
-- "True Crime" (1995)
by Andrew Klavan

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
occurred? Send it to fictiondays@yahoo.com.

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Today in literary history
On this day in 1914, Amy Lowell hosted an "Imagist" dinner party in London, attended by Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford and others prominent in the avant-garde movement. Though intended as a celebration of modern poetry and a joining of forces, it became an early skirmish in a longer war between Pound and Lowell over who would lead whom, and in what direction.

Lowell, says one critic, was "the Liberace of modern poetry." She had some talent, lots of money and connections, and a Yankee approach to selling the product: "Publicity first. Poetry will follow." From the start, Pound seems to have welcomed Lowell not for her poetic talent or taste -- "the fluid, fruity, facile stuff we most wanted to avoid" -- but for her pocketbook and her promotional abilities: "Re/Amy. I DON'T want her. But if she can be made to liquidate, to excoriate, to cash in, on a magazine ... THEN would I be right glad to see her milked of her money, mashed into moonshine, at mercy of monitors." When he found that Lowell had her own ideas about her money, and about making modern poetry more accessible to the general reader, Pound left "Amygism" for Vorticism, and left Amy free to return to America "with the Imagist ark of the covenant, varnished and empty." Pound became foreign editor for the Little Review, and distanced himself from "Amy-just-selling-the-goods" by changing the magazine's masthead to read, "Making No Compromise with the Public Taste."

Lowell's multicourse poem "The Dinner Party" is a slap at her high society upbringing, but it can also be served as crow to Pound:

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Fish

"So ..." they said,
With their wine-glasses delicately poised,
Mocking at the thing they cannot understand.
"So ..." they said again,
Amused and insolent.
The silver on the table glittered,
And the red wine in the glasses
Seemed the blood I had wasted
In a foolish cause ...

-- Steve King

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To find out more about "Today in Literary History," email Steve King.


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