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Praise for Pound & Williams, advice for overachievers, and more.
POUND OF PLEASURE
Samuel Hughes's article on Pound and Williams ["Moderns in the Quad," April] afforded me more pleasure than any other I've read in the Gazette -- and this year is my 60th Reunion.
It was also interesting to me that Pound failed Josiah Penniman's course. When I was in school (and Penniman was provost), he taught only one course, on the Bible, which almost all seniors took as a snap course requiring very little work. Oddly, the most popular poetry course was Dr. Cornelius Weygandt's Contemporary English Poetry, which he gave for many years at the same time. He finally wrote a book called Tuesdays & Thursdays at Ten. Although both Pound and T.S. Eliot lived and published in England, neither was ever mentioned.
Thanks for the memories.
ROBERT G. LANZIT
"MODERNS" ARTICLE PROMPTS
THOUGHTS OF PENN FACULTY
Thank you for Samuel Hughes's delightful article, "Moderns in the Quad" in the April Gazette, and for a remarkably good issue. Please keep it up.
The Pound-Williams story particularly appealed to me because I studied under Felix Schelling, Josiah Penniman, and Sculley Bradley. In Josiah Schelling's last year of teaching, 1933-34, I was a member of his Shakespeare seminar, which ended in the Furness Shakespeare addition to the Library with a party in honor of his 75th birthday. I remember it vividly. During the same year, I was in Dr. Penniman's graduate course of the history of literary criticism, but fared rather better then Pound. Dr. Bradley was my instructor earlier, in his course in creative writing, where he encouraged my poetry (all strongly imitative of Edwin Arlington Robinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, both then in vogue). Best of all, because it's still going on, Dan Hoffman [who is quoted in the story] is my good friend and former neighbor in Swarthmore.
There is much in the Pound-Williams article that I hadn't known, and I am grateful to you for having pulled it together and presented it so entertainingly.
PENN, POUND, AND PROPERTIUS;
OR, WHAT'S A GENIUS FOR?
Thank you for recognizing Penn's place as the seedbed for 20th century poetry. Perhaps I can fill a couple of silences in the article on Williams and Pound. First, Pound, Williams, and H.D. did not constitute a menage a trois, as one might conclude from the article. The famous meetings in front of the wisterias on the Bryn Mawr campus were quartets: Marianne Moore -- who now has a critical press to rank with all
of them -- was there most of the time. Moore's botany notes and drawings from those years
had quite as much as Williams's anatomy texts to do with finding a set of "things" (images) for the American poetry of our century.
More important still is the silence about what, from all his studies at Penn, actually did influence Pound. We already knew well from Penn folklore all the subjects and professors at which he scoffed; did he learn nothing? The article mentions in passing Pound's respect for Walton McDaniels, his Latin professor, but says nothing about the subject. Pound's literary history tells the tale. His earliest verse is still quite Swinburnean; but, when he is seven or eight years out of Penn, all that changes. Just as he was finding his own poetic voice, World War I exploded in Sarajevo. With typical perverseness, Pound blamed it all on the British Empire. In the face of the European chaos, Robert Frost cultivated Vergil's high rhetoric (and his Stoicism); Amy Lowell dripped Catullan imagism and pathos: but Pound, in his frustration, followed Propertius and smashed his sentences like a mirror in the hands of a child.
Pound's "Homage to Sextus Propertius" was the beginning of a new brand of poetic syntax: his greatest and most controversial heritage of the 20th century. Propertius, as any Latin lover will tell you, is that language's most perverse poet, as Pound became ours. Not only does Propertius choose the elegiac meter -- with its limping, trunacted alternating lines -- but he takes the Ciceronian periodic sentence and purposely crushes its balances and its climaxes. It was here, in the inflected language of the Roman poet, that Pound realized that he, too, could free himself of the subject-verb-object of English speech. What Pound had to say was too emotional as well as too intellectual for mere prose syntax. Even in French literature there was nothing so bold, so revolutionary as Propertius.
When I was an English major at Penn in the late forties, I rather reiterated Pound's experience. In all my 30-odd English courses, Pound was mentioned only once. In our senior seminar on the English Renaissance Matt Shaaber (a name I mention with reverence) was asked by a student about the award to Pound of the Bollingen Prize. Shaaber rose out of his seat and berated "the award of a respectable poetry prize to a man who, if he weren't crazy, would be on trial as a traitor to his country."
I did, though, learn about Eliot and Pound in the best Pennsylvania manner: from my well-read and modest classmate, P. Alfred Mamourian, sort of my William Carlos Williams. (I still treasure our talks on the fifth floor of Coxe Dorm, a great part of my education at Penn.)
In 1957, I returned to my alma mater as instructor in Latin. It seemed romantic to sit in the same room where Pound -- and I -- had punctuated the century reading Latin poetry. I tried reading Propertius with my talented freshmen. Neither Propertius nor Pound nor I impressed the frosh, though they were (God love 'em) easier on me than on the two geniuses I was trying to sell. I never again tried to teach either Propertius or Pound to freshmen, though I name-dropped both during my entire career. Perhaps, in the end, name-dropping is what geniuses are made for.
PHILIP N. LOCKHART
[According to senior editor Sam Hughes's research, while Marianne Moore did indeed become an important part of that circle of poets, she did not meet either Pound or Williams until some years after they all graduated. -- Ed.]
STILL WAITING, BUT WHERE?
In a satire of a Philadelphia school's alumni notes ["Not the Alumni Notes," April], author Caren Lissner should know better than to use the expression waiting on line. Only New Yawkers wait on line. In Philly and the rest of the civilized world we wait in line. So there!
Its been almost 22 years since I spent an idyllic summer in the southern Missouri Ozarks. I gave up selling beer at Veterans Stadium, and a chance to see the All-Star game in 1976 (though I did catch the 1996 one), for a job as a Park Ranger in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Dennis Drabelle's article, "A River of Words," [April] brings back fond memories of canoeing down crystal clear rivers and exploring caves of all shapes and sizes. I could actually smell the scent of the pines on the sandy bluffs above the river, and feel the cold spring water as it flowed into the river. I was one of those East Coasters with a "STOP MERAMEC DAM" bumper sticker on my 1970 Dodge half-ton van, which I had bought from the Philadelphia Gas Works at closed bid auction for $956 after graduating from Penn in 1975. My career in the Public Health Service working with the homeless mentally ill has taken me far afieId from my days in environment biology at Penn, but Dennis Drabelle's article fills in a missing piece for me from what seems like a past life. Thanks for the reminiscence.
DR. DAVID M. BAND
Takoma Park, Md.
DELAYED GRATIFICATION CAN WAIT
Law student Jordana Horn's plight ["Notes From the Undergrad," April] struck a resonant chord within me, but I think I found a solution that worked. Amazingly, there was one useful bit of knowledge I gleaned from my Penn undergraduate education (1969-1973), and it came in a Psychology 1B class my freshman year. The operative phrase which describes the plight of Ms. Horn and countless others like her is "delayed gratification." My recollection is that it struck me that delayed gratification is something like the old children's story about the grasshopper and the ant, except that in the case of modern youth, the industrious ant never gets to relax when winter comes, because winter is always postponed.
Like Ms. Horn, I went on to law school from Penn (Duke Law, 1976). Unlike her, I decided to stop and smell the roses along the way while accumulating a college degree, a law degree, and an education. My biggest step outside the hamster cage she describes was to get a public library card and actually read books for pleasure. At the time my college reading load was so heavy -- some courses averaged an unreadable, boring, book a week -- that I never caught up. But I learned, and I passed my courses. I took the opportunity to spend one semester abroad, spending half my junior year in college in London, and I played on the Penn golf team my senior year. From my Hong Kong-native roommate, I learned how to put English on the cue ball and how to set up my next shot in our nightly games of straight pool.
When I got to law school, I tried to maintain my perspective. I finished the three-hour Civil Procedure exam in one hour, and instead of panicking and wondering how to fill up my exam book as many of my classmates did, I still hold the Duke Law record for most holes of golf completed by the end of the Civil Procedure exam. I was putting out on the ninth green when everyone else put their pens down. In law school I fenced, played basketball every day, lowered my golf handicap from 5 to 1, helped my roommates raise a puppy (named "Judge"), monitored my classmates' all night poker games, and took every practical course I could on how to be a real trial lawyer.
Some of my classmates engaged in the kind of compulsive behavior described by Ms. Horn. But many more of them came to the realization that one must not lose sight of the ultimate goal. That goal is not a $1,700 a week salary earned while running on the hamster treadmill at a large law firm, but rather it is to become a more complete human being -- who is happy and productive at the same time. Oh, yes, and if you are doing work that you love, the money will be there, too.
MORE TO LIFE THAN MONEY
Do I detect a trend -- or is it a fluke? The April Gazette includes articles on underachievers ["Not the Alumni Notes"] and a lawyer turned writer ["A River of Words"]. A law student writes on what gets lost in the rush to achieve ["Notes From the Undergrad"]. And an alumna writes to challenge our views of welfare reform and the unearned benefits of trust-funders ["Letters"]. Finally an issue of the Gazette I can relate to!
I'm a former valedictorian from 1964, who just bought her first house. I drive an 1989 Toyota Tercel (bought used), and I hope to have my graduate school student loan paid off before I'm eligible for social security! Are there any others out there like me? Could our lives possibly be of interest even though not much in the way of financial donations can be expected from us? Was my Penn education "wasted?" I certainly don't think so. Now, if only I could find a copy of my valedictory speech, I think I'd discover I said pretty much the same thing almost 35 years ago.
JILL A. BECKER
In an age where joining the rat race is the norm and the questioning of it infrequent, I was pleased to see Jordana Horn's contemplation on the price paid for yielding to the somewhat blind ambition that Penn and similarly "elite" schools can foster.
It reminded me of a quote that I refer to from time-to-time when, like Ms. Horn, I stop to ask myself "What am I doing?" It goes something like this: "There is no obligation on us to be richer, or busier, or more efficient, or more productive, or more progressive, or any way worldlier or wealthier, if it does not make us happier." In other words, "Don't believe the hype."
San Francisco/New York
NEW RESIDENCE PLAN IS
ATTACK ON FRATERNITIES
I consider the newly announced college house plan ["From College Hall," April] to be a thinly-disguised attack on Pennsylvania's fraternity system. Since fraternities are not permitted to rush until almost the second semester, it is obvious that the students enrolled in the house plans will have already made their housing arrangements for the year and probably the next year. The University has gone all out to enhance the attractiveness of this new residential plan, employing graduate advisers, faculty members, and other personnel, all at University expense. The University has never, to my knowledge, offered to install University-supported personnel in the fraternity houses.
In 1999, fraternities will have existed at Pennsylvania for 150 years. Of course there have been some fraternity problems through the years, as there have been in the dormitories and apartments. If, however, you consider the thousands of men who have been fraternity affiliates, all in all the record has been pretty good. Studies showing financial support for colleges have always indicated that fraternity men support their alma maters out of all proportion to their numbers in their classes.
At Penn, fraternity men who have done much for Pennsylvania have included Walter Annenberg, Robert Trescher, and Alvin Shoemaker. There have been many others. From my own chapter has come a Nobel Prize winner, a trustee of the University, and a chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, to name a few.
I believe Judith Rodin was a sorority member in her undergraduate days and if so, this does not seem to have hurt her work for the University.
I feel so strongly about this that I am removing the bequest in my will in favor of the University. While it will not be missed, it is the only way I can show my displeasure at the new residence plan.
GEORGE S. TOLL
ERROR IN IRAN ARTICLE
The article "Iran in the Khatami Era: Cracks in the Wall of Mistrust" ["Gazetteer," April], contains an error. Although I am sure Iraq shot down a few Iranian civilian aircraft during their war, I believe the author is attempting to refer to the infamous incident when the American cruiser USS Vincennes, stationed in the Persian Gulf, shot down an Iranian passenger plane and killed innocent Iranians.
MAKE PUZZLES MORE CRYPTIC
I very much enjoy working on (and sometimes even solving!) the cryptic and cryptogram crosswords you publish alternately in the Gazette.
One particular type of clue seems to predominate in the cryptic puzzles. These would be even more challenging if they included more clues of the other types and fewer of this type. To wit: a type of clue that's overused prompts the solver to give a banana to his grandmother, taking half of it, first, for himself.
PAUL N. ZIERK
Deer Isle, Maine
[Cryptic-crossword creator Brit Ray responds: "While most cryptic clues are anagrams and mixed, I try to include a sprinkling of reversals, containers, hidden words, charades, and puns in each puzzle." -- Ed.]
WE HOPE YOU LIKE THIS ONE, TOO
Just a brief note of appreciation for your last two issues of The Pennsylvania Gazette. They are superb, both in content and in graphics. I was particularly impressed by John Shea's splendid article, "The Fragile Orchestra" [March], describing Dr. Martha Farah's and Dr. Todd Feinberg's neurophysiological research.
Also, the handsome Gazette magazine cover in April is a terrific illustration. Compliments to your artist, David Johnson.
DORIS NOTIS FINCK
CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION
Your new approach is great. As a 1979 alum, I was sick of all the controversy and bad news in the magazine. There is nothing in the world wrong with good news. The U. does positive things ... so let's talk about them. We should celebrate the events that bring us all together instead of agonizing over the bad stuff. Well done.
STEPHEN L. CARTER
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
A TRUE PENNSYLVANIAN
I thoroughly enjoy reading your alumni magazine because it keeps me connected to Penn in a stimulating and entertaining venue.
I am a "fandancer" for Penn: My daughter is at Penn in the College of Arts and Sciences (Class of 1999) and my son graduated from the College in 1997 -- I even married a man named Penn.
SUSAN BERLAND PENN
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