Brian Kim Stefans is a poet who has clearly immersed himself in early Pound, specifically H. S. Mauberley and Homage to Sextus Propertius, and absorbed the wonderful flexibility of Pound’s rhythms to the point that he can write in that manner without its sounding like simple pastiche. (Unfortunately, he has also inherited Pound’s careless spelling habits—”Bliss Carmen,” “des Esseinte,” “gutteral,” “Barishnyakov,” “shepharded”—so that one cannot be sure whether there might be typos in such loca difficilia as “cared a noogie for” and “hackterism,” or whether “Wheelright” should be Wheelwright and “V-Burg” W-Burg [Williamsburg, on the L train mentioned in the same poem]. On the other hand, he’s taught me a new word, “frobbing,” so I’m willing to call off the dogs.) The Iowa Review Web has published “Coda: ‘The Nineties Tried Your Game, There’s Nothing In It,” the final 12-poem sequence of “Pasha Noise: life and contacts,” a long poem partly inspired by Pound; the pdf file is here, the Google cache here. I think anyone who likes the style will enjoy it a great deal. Here’s the final poem:

XII. Photo Finish
The “Nineties” tried your game, and died, of course;
suggesting some sort of adrenalin rush at the fin-de-siecle,
a sort of fight-or-flight mentality, a decadent mush, or bombed steel twist;
that’s how it feels, flounder-eyed at the bottom of
a century, thinking on the one hand there’s Moxley, and on the other
that bloke who writes his naive “paragrams” with computers;
nothing but celluloid seems very old, these days,
the first of the trope-recycling “new” arts in cahoots with Benjamin’s Golden Age,
— rather than calcium in bones, we have the half-life of the restored Vigo,
— which, if it seems confusing, is, really, quite OK;
books will continue to be made, and Johnson (Lionel) will still fall from the stool,
I’ll bribe you with these allusions, Auden will continue to be chthonic in September
1932, and we’ll still complain that Barbara Guest was a parenthesis
in Lehman’s The Last Avant-Garde, and we’ll be carpet-bombed with poems,
until the big novel hits — in which case there will still be Tom Phillips’ A Humument.

I very much like “I’ll bribe you with these allusions,” and I too am a fan of A Humument.
Stefans has a blog [replaced by this one in mid-2004], in which you can read his brief description of the poem, and there is another poem from the sequence at wood s lot, where I discovered the poet.


  1. I really liked A Humument, even going so far as checking out a copy of Mallock’s A Human Document and flipping through it. I’ve always wanted to see the A TV Dante mini-series that he and Peter Greenaway collaborated on.

  2. Tom Phillips apparently designed the back cover of King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black” (words blotted out Humument-style, except for “this night wounds time”). From the cover of the Dante book I’d guess he did artwork for Brian Eno too. Never knew he had done more work like that though. Very cool.

  3. The good thing about bad spelling is that you get fewer hits when you type in something like “Bliss Carmen” or “des Esseinte” — I just Googled the latter and your post came up at the top.
    Anyway, yes, my spelling is terrible, and this poem has been in such flux that I’ve never stopped to correct any of it, though of course to my eye it all looks perfect, like a mother with a cross-eyed baby. I always enjoyed books like John Espy’s “Mauberley” where he tries to deduce just how purposeful Pound’s spelling was.
    “V-burg” is on purpose, though, since I have a tendency to pronounce it “Villiamtsbourg” — kind of mock-German (some people call it “Berliniamsburg” after a famous night at Lux). Just glad I got “chthonic” and “Humument” right!
    Cheers —

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