Fenollosa – Pound – Yeats: (Certain Noble Plays of Japan)

From The Manuscripts Of Ernest Fenollosa,

Chosen And Finished

By Ezra Pound

With An Introduction By William Butler Yeats

Fenollosa, Pound and Yeats are all members of Robert Anton Wilsons ‘all star cast’ for The Tale Of The Tribe.

Here we have one document which features 1/4 of the stars. Well worth the read i presume. In particular for anyone interested in Theatre.

Keep on truckin’

–Steve Fly



Introduction by William Butler Yeats, April, 1916.

In the series of books I edit for my sister I confine myself to those that have I believe some special value to Ireland, now or in the future. I have asked Mr. Pound for these beautiful plays because I think they will help me to explain a certain possibility of the Irish dramatic movement.
I am writing these words with my imagination stirred by a visit to the studio of Mr. Dulac, the distinguished illustrator of the Arabian Nights. I saw there the mask and head-dress to be worn in a play of mine by the player who will speak the part of Cuchulain, and who wearing this noble half-Greek half-Asiatic face will appear perhaps like an image seen in revery by some Orphic worshipper. I hope to have attained the distance from life which can make credible strange events, elaborate words. I have written a little play that can be played in a room for so little money that forty or fifty readers of poetry can pay the price. There will be no scenery, for three musicians, whose seeming sun-burned faces will I hope suggest that they have wandered from village to village in some country of our dreams, can describe place and weather, and at moments action, and accompany it all by drum and gong or flute and dulcimer. Instead of the players working themselves into a violence of passion indecorous in our sitting-room, the music, the beauty of form and voice all come to climax in pantomimic dance.
In fact with the help of these plays ‘translated by Ernest Fenollosa and finished by Ezra Pound’ I have invented a form of drama, distinguished, indirect and symbolic, and having no need of mob or press to pay its way—an aristocratic form. When this play and its performance run as smoothly as my skill can make them, I shall hope to write another of the same sort and so complete a dramatic celebration of the life of Cuchulain planned long ago. Then having given enough performances for I hope the pleasure of personal friends and a few score people of good taste, I shall record all discoveries of method and turn to something else. It is an advantage of this noble form that it need absorb no one’s life, that its few properties can be packed up in a box, or hung upon the walls where they will be fine ornaments.
And yet this simplification is not mere economy. For nearly three centuries invention has been making the human voice and the movements of the body seem always less expressive. I have long been puzzled why passages, that are moving when read out or spoken during rehearsal, seem muffled or dulled during performance. I have simplified scenery, having ‘The Hour Glass’ for instance played now before green curtains, now among those admirable ivory-coloured screens invented by Gordon Craig. With every simplification the voice has recovered something of its importance and yet when verse has approached in temper to let us say ‘Kubla Khan,’ or ‘The Ode to the West Wind,’ the most typical modern verse, I have still felt as if the sound came to me from behind a veil. The stage-opening, the powerful light and shade, the number of feet between myself and the players have destroyed intimacy. I have found myself thinking of players who needed perhaps but to unroll a mat in some Eastern garden. Nor have I felt this only when I listened to speech, but even more when I have watched the movement of a player or heard singing in a play. I love all the arts that can still remind me of their origin among the common people, and my ears are only comfortable when the singer sings as if mere speech had taken fire, when he appears to have passed into song almost imperceptibly. I am bored and wretched, a limitation I greatly regret, when he seems no longer a human being but an invention of science. To explain him to myself I say that he has become a wind instrument and sings no longer like active men, sailor or camel driver, because he has had to compete with an orchestra, where the loudest instrument has always survived. The human voice can only become louder by becoming less articulate, by discovering some new musical sort of roar or scream. As poetry can do neither, the voice must be freed from this competition and find itself among little instruments, only heard at their best perhaps when we are close about them. It should be again possible for a few poets to write as all did once, not for the printed page but to be sung. But movement also has grown less expressive, more declamatory, less intimate. When I called the other day upon a friend I found myself among some dozen people who were watching a group of Spanish boys and girls, professional dancers, dancing some national dance in the midst of a drawing-room. Doubtless their training had been long, laborious and wearisome; but now one could not be deceived, their movement was full of joy. They were among friends, and it all seemed but the play of children; how powerful it seemed, how passionate, while an even more miraculous art, separated from us by the footlights, appeared in the comparison laborious and professional. It is well to be close enough to an artist to feel for him a personal liking, close enough perhaps to feel that our liking is returned.
My play is made possible by a Japanese dancer whom I have seen dance in a studio and in a drawing-room and on a very small stage lit by an excellent stage-light. In the studio and in the drawing-room alone where the lighting was the light we are most accustomed to, did I see him as the tragic image that has stirred my imagination. There where no studied lighting, no stage-picture made an artificial world, he was able, as he rose from the floor, where he had been sitting crossed-legged or as he threw out an arm, to recede from us into some more powerful life. Because that separation was achieved by human means alone, he receded, but to inhabit as it were the deeps of the mind. One realised anew, at every separating strangeness, that the measure of all arts’ greatness can be but in their intimacy.
All imaginative art keeps at a distance and this distance once chosen must be firmly held against a pushing world. Verse, ritual, music and dance in association with action require that gesture, costume, facial expression, stage arrangement must help in keeping the door. Our unimaginative arts are content to set a piece of the world as we know it in a place by itself, to put their photographs as it were in a plush or a plain frame, but the arts which interest me, while seeming to separate from the world and us a group of figures, images, symbols, enable us to pass for a few moments into a deep of the mind that had hitherto been too subtle for our habitation. As a deep of the mind can only be approached through what is most human, most delicate, we should distrust bodily distance, mechanism and loud noise.
It may be well if we go to school in Asia, for the distance from life in European art has come from little but difficulty with material. In half-Asiatic Greece, Kallimachos could still return to a stylistic management of the falling folds of drapery, after the naturalistic drapery of Phidias, and in Egypt the same age that saw the village Head-man carved in wood for burial in some tomb with so complete a naturalism saw, set up in public places, statues full of an august formality that implies traditional measurements, a philosophic defence. The spiritual painting of the 14th century passed on into Tintoretto and that of Velasquez into modern painting with no sense of loss to weigh against the gain, while the painting of Japan, not having our European Moon to churn the wits, has understood that no styles that ever delighted noble imaginations have lost their importance, and chooses the style according to the subject. In literature also we have had the illusion of change and progress, the art of Shakespeare passing into that of Dryden, and so into the prose drama, by what has seemed when studied in its details unbroken progress. Had we been Greeks, and so but half-European, an honourable mob would have martyred though in vain the first man who set up a painted scene, or who complained that soliloquies were unnatural, instead of repeating with a sigh, ‘we cannot return to the arts of childhood however beautiful.’ Only our lyric poetry has kept its Asiatic habit and renewed itself at its own youth, putting off perpetually what has been called its progress in a series of violent revolutions.
Therefore it is natural that I go to Asia for a stage-convention, for more formal faces, for a chorus that has no part in the action and perhaps for those movements of the body copied from the marionette shows of the 14th century. A mask will enable me to substitute for the face of some common-place player, or for that face repainted to suit his own vulgar fancy, the fine invention of a sculptor, and to bring the audience close enough to the play to hear every inflection of the voice. A mask never seems but a dirty face, and no matter how close you go is still a work of art; nor shall we lose by staying the movement of the features, for deep feeling is expressed by a movement of the whole body. In poetical painting & in sculpture the face seems the nobler for lacking curiosity, alert attention, all that we sum up under the famous word of the realists ‘vitality.’ It is even possible that being is only possessed completely by the dead, and that it is some knowledge of this that makes us gaze with so much emotion upon the face of the Sphinx or Buddha. Who can forget the face of Chaliapine as the Mogul King in Prince Igor, when a mask covering its upper portion made him seem like a Phoenix at the end of its thousand wise years, awaiting in condescension the burning nest and what did it not gain from that immobility in dignity and in power?
Realism is created for the common people and was always their peculiar delight, and it is the delight to-day of all those whose minds educated alone by school-masters and newspapers are without the memory of beauty and emotional subtlety. The occasional humorous realism that so much heightened the emotional effect of Elizabethan Tragedy, Cleopatra’s old man with an asp let us say, carrying the tragic crisis by its contrast above the tide-mark of Corneille’s courtly theatre, was made at the outset to please the common citizen standing on the rushes of the floor; but the great speeches were written by poets who remembered their patrons in the covered galleries. The fanatic Savonarola was but dead a century, and his lamentation in the frenzy of his rhetoric, that every prince of the Church or State throughout Europe was wholly occupied with the fine arts, had still its moiety of truth. A poetical passage cannot be understood without a rich memory, and like the older school of painting appeals to a tradition, and that not merely when it speaks of ‘Lethe’s Wharf’ or ‘Dido on the wild sea-banks’ but in rhythm, in vocabulary; for the ear must notice slight variations upon old cadences and customary words, all that high breeding of poetical style where there is nothing ostentatious, nothing crude, no breath of parvenu or journalist.
Let us press the popular arts on to a more complete realism, for that would be their honesty; and the commercial arts demoralise by their compromise, their incompleteness, their idealism without sincerity or elegance, their pretence that ignorance can understand beauty. In the studio and in the drawing-room we can found a true theatre of beauty. Poets from the time of Keats and Blake have derived their descent only through what is least declamatory, least popular in the art of Shakespeare, and in such a theatre they will find their habitual audience and keep their freedom. Europe is very old and has seen many arts run through the circle and has learned the fruit of every flower and known what this fruit sends up, and it is now time to copy the East and live deliberately.
  'Ye shall not, while ye tarry with me, taste
From unrinsed barrel the diluted wine
Of a low vineyard or a plant illpruned,
But such as anciently the Aegean Isles
Poured in libation at their solemn feasts:
And the same goblets shall ye grasp embost
With no vile figures of loose languid boors,
But such as Gods have lived with and have led.'
The Noh theatre of Japan became popular at the close of the 14th century, gathering into itself dances performed at Shinto shrines in honour of spirits and gods or by young nobles at the court, and much old lyric poetry, and receiving its philosophy and its final shape perhaps from priests of a contemplative school of Buddhism. A small daimio or feudal lord of the ancient capital Nara, a contemporary of Chaucer’s, was the author, or perhaps only the stage-manager, of many plays. He brought them to the court of the Shogun at Kioto. From that on the Shogun and his court were as busy with dramatic poetry as the Mikado and his with lyric. When for the first time Hamlet was being played in London Noh was made a necessary part of official ceremonies at Kioto, and young nobles and princes, forbidden to attend the popular theatre in Japan as elsewhere a place of mimicry and naturalism were encouraged to witness and to perform in spectacles where speech, music, song and dance created an image of nobility and strange beauty. When the modern revolution came, Noh after a brief unpopularity was played for the first time in certain ceremonious public theatres, and 1897 a battleship was named Takasago, after one of its most famous plays. Some of the old noble families are to-day very poor, their men it may be but servants and labourers, but they still frequent these theatres. ‘Accomplishment’ the word Noh means, and it is their accomplishment and that of a few cultured people who understand the literary and mythological allusions and the ancient lyrics quoted in speech or chorus, their discipline, a part of their breeding. The players themselves, unlike the despised players of the popular theatre, have passed on proudly from father to son an elaborate art, and even now a player will publish his family tree to prove his skill. One player wrote in 1906 in a business circular—I am quoting from Mr. Pound’s redaction of the Notes of Fenollosa—that after thirty generations of nobles a woman of his house dreamed that a mask was carried to her from heaven, and soon after she bore a son who became a player and the father of players. His family he declared still possessed a letter from a 15th century Mikado conferring upon them a theatre-curtain, white below and purple above.
There were five families of these players and, forbidden before the Revolution to perform in public, they had received grants of land or salaries from the state. The white and purple curtain was no doubt to hang upon a wall behind the players or over their entrance door for the Noh stage is a platform surrounded upon three sides by the audience. No ‘naturalistic’ effect is sought. The players wear masks and found their movements upon those of puppets: the most famous of all Japanese dramatists composed entirely for puppets. A swift or a slow movement and a long or a short stillness, and then another movement. They sing as much as they speak, and there is a chorus which describes the scene and interprets their thought and never becomes as in the Greek theatre a part of the action. At the climax instead of the disordered passion of nature there is a dance, a series of positions & movements which may represent a battle, or a marriage, or the pain of a ghost in the Buddhist purgatory. I have lately studied certain of these dances, with Japanese players, and I notice that their ideal of beauty, unlike that of Greece and like that of pictures from Japan and China, makes them pause at moments of muscular tension. The interest is not in the human form but in the rhythm to which it moves, and the triumph of their art is to express the rhythm in its intensity. There are few swaying movements of arms or body such as make the beauty of our dancing. They move from the hip, keeping constantly the upper part of their body still, and seem to associate with every gesture or pose some definite thought. They cross the stage with a sliding movement, and one gets the impression not of undulation but of continuous straight lines.
The Print Room of the British Museum is now closed as a war-economy, so I can only write from memory of theatrical colour-prints, where a ship is represented by a mere skeleton of willows or osiers painted green, or a fruit tree by a bush in a pot, and where actors have tied on their masks with ribbons that are gathered into a bunch behind the head. It is a child’s game become the most noble poetry, and there is no observation of life, because the poet would set before us all those things which we feel and imagine in silence.
Mr. Ezra Pound has found among the Fenollosa manuscripts a story traditional among Japanese players. A young man was following a stately old woman through the streets of a Japanese town, and presently she turned to him and spoke: ‘Why do you follow me?’ ‘Because you are so interesting.’ ‘That is not so, I am too old to be interesting.’ But he wished he told her to become a player of old women on the Noh stage. ‘If he would become famous as a Noh player she said, he must not observe life, nor put on an old voice and stint the music of his voice. He must know how to suggest an old woman and yet find it all in the heart.’
In the plays themselves I discover a beauty or a subtlety that I can trace perhaps to their threefold origin. The love-sorrows, the love of father and daughter, of mother and son, of boy and girl, may owe their nobility to a courtly life, but he to whom the adventures happen, a traveller commonly from some distant place, is most often a Buddhist priest; and the occasional intellectual subtlety is perhaps Buddhist. The adventure itself is often the meeting with ghost, god or goddess at some holy place or much-legended tomb; and god, goddess or ghost reminds me at times of our own Irish legends and beliefs, which once it may be differed little from those of the Shinto worshipper.
The feather-mantle, for whose lack the moon goddess, (or should we call her fairy?) cannot return to the sky, is the red cap whose theft can keep our fairies of the sea upon dry land; and the ghost-lovers in ‘Nishikigi’ remind me of the Aran boy and girl who in Lady Gregory’s story come to the priest after death to be married. These Japanese poets too feel for tomb and wood the emotion, the sense of awe that our Gaelic speaking country people will some times show when you speak to them of Castle Hackett or of some Holy Well; and that is why perhaps it pleases them to begin so many plays by a Traveller asking his way with many questions, a convention agreeable to me; for when I first began to write poetical plays for an Irish theatre I had to put away an ambition of helping to bring again to certain places, their old sanctity or their romance. I could lay the scene of a play on Baile’s Strand, but I found no pause in the hurried action for descriptions of strand or sea or the great yew tree that once stood there; and I could not in ‘The King’s Threshold’ find room, before I began the ancient story, to call up the shallow river and the few trees and rocky fields of modern Gort. But in the ‘Nishikigi’ the tale of the lovers would lose its pathos if we did not see that forgotten tomb where ‘the hiding fox’ lives among ‘the orchids and the chrysanthemum flowers.’ The men who created this convention were more like ourselves than were the Greeks and Romans, more like us even than are Shakespeare and Corneille. Their emotion was self-conscious and reminiscent, always associating itself with pictures and poems. They measured all that time had taken or would take away and found their delight in remembering celebrated lovers in the scenery pale passion loves. They travelled seeking for the strange and for the picturesque: ‘I go about with my heart set upon no particular place, no more than a cloud. I wonder now would the sea be that way, or the little place Kefu that they say is stuck down against it.’ When a traveller asks his way of girls upon the roadside he is directed to find it by certain pine trees, which he will recognise because many people have drawn them.
I wonder am I fanciful in discovering in the plays themselves (few examples have as yet been translated and I may be misled by accident or the idiosyncrasy of some poet) a playing upon a single metaphor, as deliberate as the echoing rhythm of line in Chinese and Japanese painting. In the ‘Nishikigi’ the ghost of the girl-lover carries the cloth she went on weaving out of grass when she should have opened the chamber door to her lover, and woven grass returns again and again in metaphor and incident. The lovers, now that in an aery body they must sorrow for unconsummated love, are ‘tangled up as the grass patterns are tangled.’ Again they are like an unfinished cloth: ‘these bodies, having no weft, even now are not come together, truly a shameful story, a tale to bring shame on the gods.’ Before they can bring the priest to the tomb they spend the day ‘pushing aside the grass from the overgrown ways in Kefu,’ and the countryman who directs them is ‘cutting grass on the hill;’ & when at last the prayer of the priest unites them in marriage the bride says that he has made ‘a dream-bridge over wild grass, over the grass I dwell in;’ and in the end bride and bridegroom show themselves for a moment ‘from under the shadow of the love-grass.’
In ‘Hagoromo’ the feather-mantle of the fairy woman creates also its rhythm of metaphor. In the beautiful day of opening spring ‘the plumage of Heaven drops neither feather nor flame,’ ‘nor is the rock of earth over-much worn by the brushing of the feathery skirt of the stars.’ One half remembers a thousand Japanese paintings, or whichever comes first into the memory. That screen painted by Korin, let us say, shown lately at the British Museum, where the same form is echoing in wave and in cloud and in rock. In European poetry I remember Shelley’s continually repeated fountain and cave, his broad stream and solitary star. In neglecting character which seems to us essential in drama, as do their artists in neglecting relief and depth, when they arrange flowers in a vase in a thin row, they have made possible a hundred lovely intricacies.
These plays arose in an age of continual war and became a part of the education of soldiers. These soldiers, whose natures had as much of Walter Pater as of Achilles combined with Buddhist priests and women to elaborate life in a ceremony, the playing of football, the drinking of tea, and all great events of state, becoming a ritual. In the painting that decorated their walls and in the poetry they recited one discovers the only sign of a great age that cannot deceive us, the most vivid and subtle discrimination of sense and the invention of images more powerful than sense; the continual presence of reality. It is still true that the Deity gives us, according to His promise, not His thoughts or His convictions but His flesh and blood, and I believe that the elaborate technique of the arts, seeming to create out of itself a superhuman life has taught more men to die than oratory or the Prayer Book. We only believe in those thoughts which have been conceived not in the brain but in the whole body. The Minoan soldier who bore upon his arm the shield ornamented with the dove in the Museum at Crete, or had upon his head the helmet with the winged horse, knew his rôle in life. When Nobuzane painted the child Saint Kobo, Daishi kneeling full of sweet austerity upon the flower of the lotus, he set up before our eyes exquisite life and the acceptance of death.
I cannot imagine those young soldiers and the women they loved pleased with the ill-breeding and theatricality of Carlyle, nor I think with the magniloquence of Hugo. These things belong to an industrial age, a mechanical sequence of ideas; but when I remember that curious game which the Japanese called, with a confusion of the senses that had seemed typical of our own age, ‘listening to incense,’ I know that some among them would have understood the prose of Walter Pater, the painting or Puvis de Chavannes, the poetry of Mallarmé and Verlaine. When heroism returned to our age it bore with it as its first gift technical sincerity.
For some weeks now I have been elaborating my play in London where alone I can find the help I need, Mr. Dulac’s mastery of design and Mr. Ito’s genius of movement; yet it pleases me to think that I am working for my own country. Perhaps some day a play in the form I am adapting for European purposes shall awake once more, whether in Gaelic or in English, under the slope of Slieve-na-mon or Croagh Patrick ancient memories; for this form has no need of scenery that runs away with money nor of a theatre-building. Yet I know that I only amuse myself with a fancy; for though my writings if they be sea-worthy must put to sea, I cannot tell where they may be carried by the wind. Are not the fairy-stories of Oscar Wilde, which were written for Mr. Ricketts and Mr. Shannon and for a few ladies, very popular in Arabia?
W. B. Yeats, April 1916.

Cathay: Ezra Pound’s re-imagination of Chinese Poetry by Kerry Brown

Cathay: Ezra Pound’s re-imagination of Chinese Poetry
This slim volume, born from an accidental discovery, set the tone for modern translations of Chinese poetry into English
By Kerry Brown

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the first publication of Ezra Pound’s slender volume of oriental poems, Cathay. While the collection does not have the fame of his epic lifelong work, Cantos, it ranks highly among modern fusion poetry that blends in two different literary traditions.
Pound never claimed to be fluent in Chinese, writes Ira Nadel in his introduction, although in the last decades of his life he did study Confucius’s Analects with a dictionary by his side. He used Chinese characters in his work, but Pound’s view from early on was that Chinese ideograms or characters, and the culture they represented, had primarily an aesthetic appeal.
The translations, which he based his own works on, came from the work of Ernest Fenollosa, an early Orientalist who mostly used Japanese renditions of classical Chinese works. Cathay is, therefore, a double mediation—a work based on another body of work which itself was derivative — rather than directly linked to the source material.
Pound was criticized for this remoteness once Cathay was published. But in the intervening hundred years, the consensus remains that he did manage to capture something of the spirit and deeper meaning of the Chinese texts.
Pound made a major contribution to the modern western concept of “the Orient”, a place of otherness, with a different tempo and emotional register to European or American cultures. He described the dominant feelings of being lost and the sense of solitude within his imagined Orient. “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” is the most celebrated of this genre, with its tale of “two small people, without dislike or suspicion” who marry at 14, get separated at 16, with the wife waiting for her husband to one day return.
Exile and absence marks many of the other poems, reinforcing this sense that Chinese poetry is about delicate understatement and restraint, expressed through metaphors concerning the landscape, vegetation, or water.
Pound’s imagination and work dealt with a larger “orient” rather than a specific place called China. The ways in which he treated this idea of what is oriental typifies other writers or thinkers from Europe or North America, whose cultures are distinct from that in Japan, China, or across East Asia.
Pound makes certain assumptions. In the Cantos, he described the whole dynastic history of China. Historians would now despair at his idea of such neat divisions between order and chaos. But when we remember that he is writing not so much about what China or the Orient as an actual place might be, but how western imagination configured it and responded to ideas about it this question of how accurate Pound’s translations are becomes unimportant. What makes his poetry important not only in and for itself, but because its role in this history of western conceptualization of the Orient, and of China.
The book is also a reminder that Pound was a skilled lyricist. His later political adventures, which almost led to a conviction for treason during World War II for producing propaganda for the Fascist government of Italy, have tended to overshadow awareness of his immense technical skills. The Cathay poems show the intensity, the concreteness and the music that Pound at his best was able to create. Cathay contains hybrid material—most of it related to Fenollosa’s renditions of Japanese-Chinese texts, but he also put in his celebrated translation from the Old English, The Seafarer. There is nothing discordant about this. In fact, it stimulates thoughts on how similar the worlds from these two eras—ancient imperial China and the dark ages of Europe—might be. Both describe loss, vulnerabilities, and the creation of beliefs.

Pound is perhaps one of the very few creative figures that succeeded in bridging two very different cultural worlds. Cathay stands as a testament to that.
Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London. His latest book China’s CEO: Xi Jinping will be out in April, 2016Reprinted with permission from The Asian Review of Books


Plunder or preservation? How Asian art came to U.S.

‘America’s involvement with China goes back to the late 18th century, when Yankee ships began to trade fur pelts and wheat (and later opium) for tea, silks and dishware. As early as 1845-1847, Boston presented the “Great Chinese Museum.”

Harvard University trained and underwrote many early explorers of China’s cultural and archaeological heritage. The 19th century scholar Ernest Fenollosa traveled to the East, converted to Buddhism, oversaw the Oriental section at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and wrote an essay on the Chinese written character which inspired Ezra Pound’s translations.–http://hamptonroads.com/2015/03/plunder-or-preservation-how-asian-art-came-us

Japanese Noh Play: Chant and music (from wikipedia)

Chant and music

Hayashi-kata (noh musicians). Left to right: taiko, ōtsuzumi (hip drum), kotsuzumi (shoulder drum), flute.


Noh theatre is accompanied by a chorus and a hayashi ensemble (Noh-bayashi 能囃子). Noh is a chanted drama, and a few commentators have dubbed it “Japanese opera“. However, the singing in Noh involves a limited tonal range, with lengthy, repetitive passages in a narrow dynamic range. Clearly, melody is not at the center of Noh singing. Still, texts are poetic, relying heavily on the Japanese seven-five rhythm common to nearly all forms of Japanese poetry, with an economy of expression, and an abundance of allusion. The singing parts of Noh are called “Utai” and the speaking parts “Kataru”.[7]

The chant is not always performed “in character”; that is, sometimes the actor will speak lines or describe events from the perspective of another character or even a disinterested narrator. Far from breaking the rhythm of the performance, this is actually in keeping with the other-worldly feel of many Noh plays, especially those characterized as mugen.

Noh hayashi ensemble consists of four musicians, also known as the “hayashi-kata”. There are three drummers, which play the shime-daiko, ōtsuzumi (hip drum), and kotsuzumi (shoulder drum) respectively, and a shinobue flautist.


Certain Noble Plays of Japan.

Title: Certain Noble Plays of Japan
       From The Manuscripts Of Ernest Fenollosa

Author: Ezra Pound

Commentator: William Butler Yeats

“All imaginative art keeps at a distance and this distance once chosen must be firmly held against a pushing world. Verse, ritual, music and dance in association with action require that gesture, costume, facial expression, stage arrangement must help in keeping the door. Our unimaginative arts are content to set a piece of the world as we know it in a place by itself, to put their photographs as it were in a plush or a plain frame, but the arts which interest me, while seeming to separate from the world and us a group of figures, images, symbols, enable us to pass for a few moments into a deep of the mind that had hitherto been too subtle for our habitation. As a deep of the mind can only be approached through what is most human, most delicate, we should distrust bodily distance, mechanism and loud noise–Certain Noble Plays of Japan.

Ernest Fenollosa 2014 and TTOTT

“Ezra Pound was no starnger to Oriental art when he met Mary McNeil Fenollosa, the widow of the American Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908), in London in late September 1913.”–Zhaoming Qian, Orientalism and Modernism (1994)  pg. 9.


Fenollosa 2014 and TTOTT

by Steve Fly

“Fenollosa [1853-1908], wrote an essay on
The Chinese WrittenCharacter as a Medium for Poetry” which vastly influenced
Ezra Pound and, through Pound, modern poetry generally;
said essay also anticipates some formulations of General Semantics
and NeuroLinguistic Programming [NLP], and foreshadows
modern critiques of “linear” and “alphabetical” thinking. –Robert Anton Wilson, Recorsi 2005.

Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) found a place in the chain of human innovation, and the lineage of modernism as defined by Dr Robert Anton Wilson in his unfinished project called ‘the tale of the tribe’. Please read some of my others posts trying to get at TTOTT and what it all means to me.

Fly On The Tale Of The Tribe: A Rollercoaster Ride With Robert Anton Wilson

by Steven James Pratt

Link: http://a.co/gOGNKyV


Continue reading “Ernest Fenollosa 2014 and TTOTT”

Fenollosa Pound Olson and the Chinese written character


“The first was Ernest Fenollosa’s provocative essay ‘The Chinese Wriiten Character as a Medium for Poetry.’ He found the Pound-edited text of the essay in the latter’s book Instigations and excitedly copied out its main arguments into his notebook that June. Fenollosa’s account of the exhaustion of poetic qualities in modern discourse resulting from a degeneration of the original capacity of language to mime the physical processes, and his implicit advocacy of a return to the state of primal verbal immediacy, with words once again becoming instrumental to the creation of ‘a vivid shorthand picture of the operations of nature,’ held for Olson the same appeal it had for Pound before him.–Tom Clark, Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life. pg. 103.


Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry (1958)

Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry (1958)
Augusto de Campos, Decio Pignatari, Haroldo de Campos: Brazil

From Concrete Poetry: A World View, 1968, ed Mary Ellen Solt

Haroldo de Campos in UbuWeb Historical
Augusto de Campos in UbuWeb Historical
Decio Pignatari in UbuWeb Historical
“Concrete Poetry: A World View : Brazil” in UbuWeb Papers
“The Imperative of Invention…” Charles A. Perrone
“Interview with Augusto de Campos” Roland Greene
“The Concrete Historical” Roland Greene
Sérgio Bessa “Architecture Versus Sound in Concrete Poetry”
“Speaking About Genre: the Case of Concrete Poetry” Victoria Pineda
“From (Command) Line to (Iconic) Constellation”, Kenneth Goldsmith

Concrete Poetry: product of a critical evolution of forms. Assuming that the historical cycle of verse (as formal-rhythmical unit) is closed, concrete poetry begins by being aware of graphic space as structural agent. Qualified space: space-time structure instead of mere linear-temporistical development. Hence the importance of ideogram concept, either in its general sense of spatial or visual syntax, or in its special sense (Fenollosa/ Pound) of method of composition based on direct-analogical, not logical-discursive juxtaposition of elements. “ll faut que notre intelligence s’habitue à comprendre synthético-idéographiquement au lieu de analytico -discursivement” (Apollinaire). Elsenstein: ideogram and montage.

Forerunners: Mallarmé (Un coup de dés, 1897): the first qualitative jump: “subdivisions prismatiques de l’idée”; space (“blancs”) and typographical devices as substantive elements of composition. Pound (The Cantos); ideogramic method.
Joyce (Ulysses and Finnegans Wake): word-ideogram; organic interpenetration of time and space. Cummings: atomization of words, physiognomical typography; expressionistic emphasis on space. Apollinaire (Calligrammes): the vision, rather than the praxis. Futurism, Dadaism: contributions to the life of the problem. In Brazil: Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954): “in pills, minutes of poetry. João Cabral de Melo Neto (born 1920—The Engineer and The Psychology of Composition plus Anti-Ode): direct speech, economy and functional architecture of verse.

Concrete Poetry: tension of things-words in space-time. Dynamic structure: multiplicity of concomitant movements. So in music-by, definition, a time art-space intervenes (Webern and his followers: Boulez and Stockhausen; concrete and electronic music); in visual arts-spatial, by definition-time intervenes (Mondrian and his Boogie-Woogie series; Max Bill; Albers and perceptive ambivalence; concrete art in general).

Ideogram: appeal to nonverbal communication. Concrete poem communicates its own structure: structure-content. Concrete poem is an object in and by itself, not an interpreter of exterior objects and/ or more or less subjective feelings. Its material word (sound, visual form, semantical charge). Its problem: a problem of functions-relations of this material.

Factors of proximity and similitude, gestalt psychology. Rhythm: relational force. Concrete poem, by using the phonetical system (digits) and analogical syntax, creates a specific linguistical area-“verbivocovisual” -which shares the advantages of nonverbal communication, without giving up word’s virtualities. With the concrete poem occurs the phenomenon of metacommunication: coincidence and simultaneity of verbal and nonverbal communication; only-it must be noted-it deals with a communication of forms, of a structure-content, not with the usual message communication.

Concrete Poetry aims at the least common multiple of language. Hence its tendency to nounising and verbification. “The concrete wherewithal of speech” (Sapir). Hence its affinities with the so-called isolating languages (Chinese): “The less outward grammar the Chinese language possesses, the more inner grammar inherent in it” (Humboldt via Cassirer). Chinese offers an example of pure relational syntax, based exclusively on word order (see Fenollosa, Sapir and Cassirer).

The conflict form-subject looking for identification, we call isomorphism. Parallel to form-subject isomorphism, there is a space-time isomorphisin, which creates movement. In a first moment of concrete poetry pragmatics, isomorphism tends to physiognomy, that is a movement imitating natural appearance (motion); organic form and phenomenology of composition prevail. In a more advanced stage, isomorphism tends to resolve itself into pure structural movement (movement properly said); at this phase, geometric form and mathematics of composition (sensible rationalism) prevail.

Renouncing the struggle for “absolute,” Concrete Poetry remains in the magnetic field of perennial relativeness. Chronomicro-metering of hazard. Control. Cybernetics. The poem as a mechanism regulating itself: feed-back. Faster communication (problems of functionality and structure implied) endows the poem with a positive value and guides its own making.

Concrete Poetry: total responsibility before language. Thorough realism. Against a poetry of expression, subjective and hedonistic. To create precise problems and to solve them in terms of sensible language. A general art of the word. The poem-product: useful object.

Note: Original printed without capitals. The “Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry” presents a synthesis of the theoretical writings of the Noigandres group from 1950-58. The critical writings and manifestos of Augusto de Campos, Décio Pignatari and Haroldo de Campos have been collected in a volume: Teoria da Poesia Concreta, Textos Críticos e Manifestos 1950-1960, Sao Paulo, Ediçãoes Invenção, 1965.
Translated by the authors.

(From Noigandres 4)


Letter to Harold Innis from McLuhan, 14th March 1951.

Within the small and obscure field of those who follow the tale of the tribe, as defined by Robert Anton Wilson will probably already be familiar with this letter by Marshall McLuhan, to Harold Innis.

In the letter McLuhan more or less drafts the trajectory RAW expands upon, with the addition of Giordano Bruno, Alfred Korzybski, Nietzsche, Claude Shannon and Orson Welles, RAW weaves a landscape of, dare i say, cybernetic post modernism?

Internet…probably the greatest catalyst, tool, for the evolution of language and human-language interfacing. And so, 12/13 historical characters are selected by RAW to approximate the innovations that took place to bring us here, and the human biographical tales crisscrossing with the design science revolutions and new styles. RAWs tale of the tribe.

Here is that letter that helped start it all, in some sense.

–steve fly 

Letter to Harold Adams Innis
Toronto, 14th March 1951

Dear Innis,
Thanks for the lecture re-print. This makes an opportunity for me to mention my interest in the work you are doing in communication study in general. I think there are lines appearing in Empire and Communications, for example, which suggest the possibility of organizing an entire school of studies. Many of the ancient language theories of the Logos type which you cite for their bearings on government and society have recurred and amalgamated themselves today under the auspices of anthropology and social psychology. Working concepts of “collective consciousness” in advertising agencies have in turn given salience and practical effectiveness to these “magical” notions of language.
But it was most of all the esthetic discoveries of the symbolists since Rimbaud and Mallarmé (developed in English by Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Lewis and Yeats) which have served to recreate in contemporary consciousness an awareness of the potencies of language such as the Western world has not experienced in 1800 years..

Mallarmé saw the modern press as a magical institution born of technology. The discontinuous juxtaposition of unrelated items made necessary by the influx of news stories from every quarter of the world, created, he saw, a symbolic landscape of great power and importance. (He used the word “symbol” in the strict Greek sense sym-ballein, to pitch together, physically and musically). He saw at once that the modern press was not a rational form but a magical one so far as communication was concerned. Its very technological form was bound to be efficacious far beyond any informative purpose. Politics were becoming musical, jazzy, magical.

The same symbolist perception applied to cinema showed that the montage of images was basically a return via technology to age-old picture language. S. Eisenstein’s Film Forum and Film Technique explore the relations between modern developments in the arts and Chinese ideogram, pointing to the common basis of ideogram in modern art, science and technology.

One major discovery of the symbolists which had the greatest importance for subsequent investigation was their notion of the learning process as a labyrinth of the senses and faculties whose retracing provided the key to all arts and sciences (basis of myth of Daedalus, basic for the dreams and schemes of Francis Bacon, and, when transferred by Vico to philology and history of culture, it also forms the basis of modern historiography, archaeology, psychology and artistic procedures alike.)

Retracing becomes in modern historical scholarship the technique of reconstruction. The technique which Edgar Poe first put to work in his detective stories. In the arts this discovery has had all those astonishing results which have seemed to separate the ordinary public from what it regards as esoteric magic. From the point of view of the artist however the business of art is no longer the communication of thoughts or feelings which are to be conceptually ordered, but a direct participation in an experience. The whole tendency of modern communication whether in the press, in advertizing, or in the high arts is toward participation in a process, rather than apprehension of concepts. And this major revolution, intimately linked to technology, is one whose consequences have not begun to be studied although they have begun to be felt.

One immediate consequence, it seems to me, has been the decline of literature. The hyper-trophy of letter-press, at once the cause and effect of universal literacy, has produced a spectacular decline of attention to the printed or written word. As you have shown in Empire and Communications, ages of literature have been few and brief in human history. The present literary epoch has been of exceptional duration — 400 years. There are many symptoms that it is at an end. The comic book for example has been seen as a degenerate literary form instead of as a nascent pictorial and dramatic form which has sprung from the new stress on visual-auditory communication in the magazines, the radio and television. The young today cannot follow narrative but they are alert to drama. They cannot bear description but they love landscape and action.

If literature is to survive as a scholastic discipline except for a very few people, it must be by a transfer of its techniques of perception and judgement to these new media. The new media, which are already much more constitutive educationally than those of the class-room, must be inspected and discussed in the class-room if the class-room is to continue at all except as a place of detention. As a teacher of literature it has long seemed to me that the functions of literature cannot be maintained in present circumstances without radical alteration of the procedures of teaching. Failure in this respect relegated Latin and Greek to the specialist; and English literature has already become a category rather than an interest in school and college.

As mechanical media have popularized and enforced the presence of the arts on all people it becomes more and more necessary to make studies of the function and effect of communication on society. Present ideas of such effects are almost entirely in terms of mounting or sagging sales curves resulting from special campaigns of commercial education. Neither the agencies nor the consumers know anything about the social or cutural effects of this education.

Deutsch’s interesting pamphlet on communication is thoroughly divorced from any sense of the social functions performed by communication. He is typical of a school likewise in his failure to study the matter in the particular. He is the technician interested in power but uncritical and unconcerned with social effect. The diagnosis of his type is best found, so far as I know, in Wyndham Lewis’s The Art of Being Ruled. That pamphlet is probably the most radical political document since Machiavelli’s Prince. But whereas Machiavelli was concerned with the use of society as raw material for the arts of power, Lewis reverses the perspective and tries to discern the human shape once more in a vast technological landscape which has been ordered on Machiavellian lines.

The fallacy in the Deutsch-Wiener approach is its failure to understand the techniques and functions of the traditional arts as the essential type of all human communication. It is instead a dialectical approach born of technology and quite unable of itself to see beyond or around technology. The Medieval schoolmen ultimately ended up on the same dialectical reef.

As Easterbrook may have told you I have been considering an experiment in communication which is to follow the lines of this letter in suggesting means of linking a variety of specialized fields by what may be called a method of esthetic analysis of their common features. This method has been used by my friend Siegfried Giedion in Space, Time and Architecture and in Mechanization Takes Command. What I have been considering is a single mimeographed sheet to be sent out weekly or fortnightly to a few dozen people in different fields, at first illustrating the underlying unities of form which exist where diversity is all that meets the eye. Then it is hoped there will be a feedback of related perception from various readers which will establish a continuous flow.

It seems obvious to me that Bloor St. is the one point in this University where one might establish a focus of the arts and sciences. And the organizing concept would naturally be “Communication Theory and practice.” A simultaneous focus of current and historic forms. Relevance to be given to selection of areas of study by dominant artistic and scientific modes of the particular period. Arts here used as providing criteria, techniques of observation, and bodies of recorded, achieved, experience. Points of departure but also return.

For example the actual techniques of common study today seem to me to be of genuine relevance to anybody who wishes to grasp the best in current poetry and music. And vice versa. There is a real, living unity in our time, as in any other, but it lies submerged under a superficial hubbub of sensation. Using Frequency Modulation techniques one can slice accurately through such interference, whereas Amplitude Modulation leaves you bouncing on all the currents.

Marshall McLuhan

from Marshall McLuhan — Complete Correspondence,
edited by Matie Molinaro & Corinne McLuhan

Finnegans Wake Takes off in China

Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake’ Takes Off in China

…Here in China, the first four pages of Chapter 9, “Scylla and Charybdis,” are read by Dai Congrong in Shanghai (there will also be a reading in Beijing) — though the translator of Joyce’s most difficult work, “Finnegans Wake,” says her contribution was prerecorded earlier this month. “I just sat down and read the book and someone recorded and also videoed it,” she said by telephone from Shanghai, where she is an associate professor of Comparative Literature at Fudan University.

Ms. Dai, 42, says there’s a real fascination with Joyce in China, as people search for new ways to express themselves in a fast-changing society.
A Joyce specialist who wrote her Ph.D. on the Irish author, Ms. Dai began translating “Finnegans Wake” in 2006. In December, she has published Book One (of four) of what is widely recognized as Joyce’s most difficult work, in a joint effort by Shanghai VI Horae Publishers, a private company, and Shanghai People’s Publishing House, a state-run company.
“I’m still working on Book Two. The progress is very slow,” she said. “You can’t translate ‘Finnegans Wake’ quickly, because I have to give footnotes for everything.”
The first, iconic sentence (“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs”) takes up three lines in Chinese but requires 17 lines of footnotes. The challenge began with the very first word: “riverrun.”

“I have to explain every word, as well as the cultural background and the alternative meanings,” she said.
“For example ‘riverrun’ could be ‘the river ran,’ and ‘reverend,’ and the German word ‘Erinnerung,’ ” or memory. “Because this book is about the meaning of memory and time, and why. So even the first word in the book you have to explain.”

“About 8 out of 10 of the words I have to write footnotes,” she said.

But the book’s mind-boggling complexity — native English speakers struggle with it and many have wondered if it was Joyce’s joke — doesn’t explain its popularity in China, where the first print run of 8,000 copies sold out within two months. Some have pointed to the way Joyce exploded hierarchy and meaning by tearing up language itself in the text when it was first published in 1939. It took 73 years to reach China in Chinese, but its message has appeal here today.