"Make it new! says Ezra, "Make it new!"


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  • Judgement Seat

    © 1997-02 GSIS

  • Ezra Pound wasn't merely dispensing good advice to fellow poets of his and those generations to follow, he was preaching the gospel of modernity, recognized along the angst-stained halls of prestige and rebuttal, simply, as the cult of originality. This controversial reveler's charge to be different, new, provocative, cutting edge, envelope-pushing at every cost to tradition even those merely a generation or two old has led those who have ventured after this early pioneer of artistic revolt into an unrequited interior abyss of entropy where escape is not possible, only shapeless repetitions, gross distortions, and poisonous mixtures of revelation and disgust where even the uncommonly profane is not recognizably differentiated from the commonly mundane, yet far less likely to outrage the cult and its saints.
        In the linguistic arts it seems we have been revisited by the same spirit which afflicted the original Babelers in our zest to separate and merge, build and deconstruct, kiss and terrorize. Politicians and financial swindlers speak the most fluent and most colorful of tongues, saying nothing and everything at once, squandering every opportunity to fulfill their own words. Primitive art the new genius, each new subculture seeking subsidies and applause from outside the strongly divided lines of communication, fiscal and political. What is old is new. Judgements are drawn with the speed of the most modern sword, that of the blaming cry from the decayed roundtable of perennial victims.
        There is very little originality if any in these times, but the cult of originality demands that we trick ourselves into believing this fair game is new, that foul ball is new, so that we can toss out the current, and shift again with the crowd on our way to the same place we were just yesterday, or the day before. Metaphors are heaped up, and torn down again just so another generation can feel original, superior to its predecessor, and while often the case in a minority of cause celebres, most often the largest chunk of real genius is frittered away as so much sawdust as the pendulum swings, and new victims are created.
        And the cult of originality is a split-fingered liar. Using phrases like "the poor get poorer" truth is laid aside. The poor aren't getting poorer, they merely become more numerous, as if this week's poverty is more original than last week's. --GT