Pound and/or Rilke

Ezra Pound famously wrote a book on politics, titled Jefferson and/or Mussolini.

This having been published in 1935, he’s referring to Thomas Jefferson, rather than the Jeffersons, though, uh:

Anyway, the two poets I’ve long thought would make great protagonists for some kind of fantasy novel are Rilke — mainly, in the light of his trek through Russia — and Pound, in terms of his insane life, his insane poetry, and what I vaguely sensed was an occult undercurrent in The Cantos.

Of course, my sense of how each figure would be best handled has diverged: Rilke, I always though, would make a good basis for a poet-in-exile, a sort of Dante-like figure fleeing some kind of religious/political upheaval, though his exile would be into the great Eastern continent, a cold and rough place across which he would trek, probably dovetailing into a kind of Marco Polo-esque voyage, before returning home a decade or two later, much changed, to a very different homeland.

Pound, on the other hand, I always imagined would be better treated in a world like ours — in alternate history, or perhaps some kind of occult-revisionist history (in fact, my sense of how Pound’s story would work involves both); I have only occasionally imagined what it would be like to place a Pound-like figure in an imaginary world, because a lot of the appeal for me of a Poundian narrative is the intersection with all kinds of other artists and writers we know about, and know (and like) better than we do him.

I probably don’t want to write both books, as it seems to me there are only so many “novels about a magical poet in exile” that the reading public will buy. I have, of late, begun to wonder whether some kind of 2nd world, fantasy elision of both — Pound-and-Rilke — might not work. It’d let me play with a lot of things that I couldn’t play with in a straight Pound narrative; but I suspect I’d have more fun writing a Pound novel.

That said, the one Pound-centric story I wrote didn’t sell to the few places I sent it. There was a lot of, “I don’t know enough about Pound to feel like I understand this” in the responses, and while friends have assured me this would be less of an issue at the novel length, I’m not sure publishers will think so. I know, I know, it’s all in the execution. But if you’re wondering why I’ve been mired in research, and haven’t started my great Pound novel, that’s why.

However, I think I will throw myself into something this summer, while continuing my Poundian research. I’ve got two ideas for novels that are gnawing away at my mind: one, a steampunk postsingulatarian narrative, and the other a murder-mystery set in Korea about a generation into the future. Both are kind of holey and problematic, and I think besides the short stories I need to finish and send out this month, and sketching out plans for a feature-length Lovecraftian screenplay (and probably an SFnal one as well —  we figure we’ll shoot a ton of footage this fall and cut it together later), I’ll spend some time taking notes in preparation for one of those.

The poet-novel can wait till the winter, when I know more about Pound’s life, and have a better sense of what I want to do.

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