Leslie Scalapino: First Loves
My first knowledge of poetry, in junior high and high school, was Homer and Shakespeare; and Greek tragedies, which are also poetry. I went to Reed College, where I took a poetry course from Kenneth Hansen in which we read Williams, Moore, Eliot, Stevens and Pound. I remember loving the poems of Williams, Stevens, and Moore.
We were all required to write a twenty-page paper on Pound's Cantos. Reading the Cantos, beautiful, was for me also to feel the effect of Pound's fascist mind, not simply to connect with the information that he had in fact been a fascist.
Wrestling with this authoritarian perception of reality caused a chasm to open up, a maelstrom to occur. I couldn't write the paper; finally went to the dean to say that I had to drop out of school; was sent by the dean to speak to Professor Hansen who merely said, "Not everyone likes Pound. You can write on something else."
Yet this very young grappling with Pound's Cantos introduced me to poetry being thought or apprehension as interior conflict arising from or being the social. So I'd designate as "my first love" the first page of the Cantos (especially since it's also Homer).
Originally published in Crossroads, Spring 1998.
More First Loves
Richard Wilbur: First Loves
There was no road-to-Damascus moment of childhood or adolescence at which poetry suddenly claimed me, but I took solid pleasure, as soon as I encountered them, in Stevenson's poems for children, and Lewis Carroll's brainy nonsense, and the lyric capabilities of Twain's colloquial prose.