By Clare Cavanagh
If modernism marked, as a few critics declare, an "apocalypse of cultural community," then Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) needs to rank between its so much consultant figures. Born to imperative ecu Jews in Warsaw at the cusp of the trendy age, he may declare neither Russian nor ecu traditions as his birthright. Describing the poetic stream he helped to came across, Acmeism, as a "yearning for international culture," he outlined the impulse that fees his personal poetry and prose. Clare Cavanagh has written a sustained learn putting Mandelstam's "remembrance and invention" of a usable poetic earlier within the context of modernist writing quite often, with specific consciousness to the paintings of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Cavanagh strains Mandelstam's construction of culture from his earliest lyrics to his final verses, written presently prior to his arrest and next loss of life in a Stalinist camp. Her paintings exhibits how the poet, generalizing from his personal dilemmas and disruptions, addressed his epoch's paradoxical legacy of disinheritance--and how he replied to this unwelcome legacy with certainly one of modernism's most complicated, bold, and difficult visions of culture. Drawing on not just Russian and Western modernist writing and idea, but in addition sleek ecu Jewish tradition, Russian spiritual concept, postrevolutionary politics, or even silent movie, Cavanagh lines Mandelstam's restoration of a "world tradition" very important, substantial, and sundry adequate to fulfill the needs of the integral outcast modernist.
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Additional info for Osip Mandelstam and the Modernist Creation of Tradition
The same labor that the modernist poet expends in acquiring his history can also work to liberate him from its weight. The fate of the past lies in the hands of the poet-parvenu, and Mandelstam is quick to assert his power. “Not a single poet has yet appeared. We are free from the burden of memories,” he proclaims in “The Word and Culture” (1921; CPL, 114). This can never be entirely true for a poet whose work depends as much on remembrance as invention, and this was the case for Pound and Eliot as well as Mandelstam.
How does an outsider come to inherit a civilization that apparently moves in unbroken succession from ancient Rome to modern Europe? If Europe is already a whole, does it allow for or require further additions? Does it want the contributions of outsiders? How are uprooted modernists from the outskirts of Western culture, upstart poets, “wanderers with no fixed abode,” to find their way into this tradition, even with plenty of hard work or diligent theft? 34 Such problems are particularly tricky for the modernist from the provinces, from the large flat places along the edges of European history.
Perhaps—but within the world of the poem itself his only companion is what he can bring forth by and from himself. The poem is populated solely by his consciousness, the body it nurtures, and the pattern that this body’s breath will leave on eternity’s glass. In this bell-jar universe, Mandelstam can breed only hothouse flowers. “I stand, dissatisfied and quiet,/The creator of my own worlds,” Mandelstam complains in another early lyric (#147).
Osip Mandelstam and the Modernist Creation of Tradition by Clare Cavanagh