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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 5 Number 5, 1975.

Louis Zukofsky Peter Jones


'The test of poetry is the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound, and intellection. This is its purpose as art . . . '

(from Zukofsky's preface to A Test of Poetry: 1948)


Louis ZUKOFSKY, in 'A Statement for Poetry' (1950), wrote, 'The best way to find out about poetry is to read the poems'. This principle hardly applies to his own work. Some introduction is needed - and not of the kind supplied by him or his passionate advocates. Together they have intellectualised his poetry almost out of existence. There is a world of difference between explication and intellectualisation. Zukofsky's critical prose style is indigestible: '. . . How much what is sounded by words has to do with what is seen by them, and how much what is at once sounded and seen by them crosscuts an interplay among themselves - will naturally sustain the scientific definition of poetry we are looking for. To endure it would be compelled to integrate these functions: time, and what is seen in time (as held by a song), and an action whose words are actors or, if you will, mimes composing steps as of a dance that at proper instants calls in the vocal chords to transfer it into plain speech . . .' (from 'Poetry A'). The implications become clear, but the expression is almost wilfully exclusive. The poetry, too, is difficult:

(mouth?) -
exult
...


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