Saturday, January 29, 2011

sunfish, or mola mola

The proper METHOD for studying poetry and good letters is the method of contemporary biologists, that is careful first-hand examination of the matter, and continual COMPARISON of one 'slide' or specimen with another.

No man is equipped for modern thinking until he has understood the anecdote of Agassiz and the fish:

A post-graduate student equipped with honours and diplomas went Agassiz to receive the final and finishing touches. The great man offered him a small fish and told him to describe it.

Post-Graduate Student: 'That's only a sunfish.'

Agassiz: 'I know that. Write a description of it.'

After a few minutes the student returned with the description of the Ichthus Heliichtherinkus, etc., as found in textbooks of the subject.

Agassiz again told the student to describe the fish.

The student produced a four-page essay. Agassiz then told him to look at the fish. At the end of three weeks the fish was in an advanced state of decomposition, but the student knew something about it.

--Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading, Volume 0, New Directions Paperbook, 1960, first published in 1934, p.p. 17-8.

Actually sunfish, or mola mola is fascinating to see.


But at this moment I don't want to write 4 pages to describe this. Totally distracted by the news from Egypt, though I've just gotten a copy of Jacques Attali's Noise: The Political Economy of Music, I haven't read it yet.

1 comment:

  1. Ezra Pound is very interesting and I like the idea of our examination of poetry needing to be that of a biologist, although I do not agree with it.

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