October 30, 1885 to November 1, 1972"/>
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Remembering Ezra Pound:
October 30, 1885 to November 1, 1972

539 words

“A slave is one who waits for someone else to free him.” — Ezra Pound

One of the ongoing projects of the North American New Right is the recovery of our tradition. One does not have to go too far back before one discovers that every great European thinker and artist is a “Right Wing extremist” by today’s standards.

What is even more remarkable is the number of great 20th century figures who belong in our camp as well. And among these figures, Ezra Loomis Pound is one of the most illustrious and one of the most radical.

In commemoration of the birth and death of Ezra Pound, we are running a three day series of works by and about him.

Pound is lauded even by his enemies as one of the giants of modernist poetry. Speaking personally, however, Pound’s poetry long stood in the way of appreciating his genius as a critic, a translator, an essayist, an economist, and a political commentator.

I like a lot of modern literature, but to my ear Pound pushes its intellectualist and reflexive characteristics to the extreme and offers very little with immediate naive and sensuous appeal. For instance, as far as I have been able to determine, he never wrote anything in danger of being set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I have reprinted the two most accessible of the Cantos below, along with recordings of Pound’s recitations.

Appreciating Pound’s poetry presupposes a vast humanistic education of the sort long unavailable in American universities. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have such an education, even if one does not end up liking Pound. A good place to begin such an education is Pound himself, through reading his many volumes of essays and criticism, which I find absolutely compelling. Pound’s art is very long, and life very short. But you owe it to yourself to try. In the end, you have nothing to lose but your ignorance.

I suggest you begin where I did, with Impact: Essays on Ignorance and the Decline of American Civilization (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1960), which brings together all of Pound’s central interests, cultural, historical, artistic, political, and economic. A similar overview is provided by Selected Prose, 1909–1965 (New York: New Directions, 1973). After that, read his Guide to Kulchur (New York: New Directions, 1970).

For Pound’s political views, seek out Jefferson and/or Mussolini (1935) (New York: Liveright, 1970). Then read his WW II radio broadcasts: Ezra Pound Speaking (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978), a sample of which is printed below. Finally,  seek out his various economic pamphlets, the ideas of which are ably summarized by Carolina Hartley in “Ezra Pound on Money,” below.

For Pound’s views on literature, I plan eventually to work my way through his Literary Essays, ed. T. S. Eliot (New York: New Directions, 1968), The Spirit of Romance (New York: New Directions, 1968), and The ABC of Reading (1934) (New York: New Directions, 1960).

Currently, my bedtime reading is the Library of America’s massive volume Pound: Poems and Translations (New York: Library of America, 2003), which contains everything except Pound’s magnum opus, The Cantos (New York: New Directions, 1971), the appreciation of which I am saving for the end of my life, after I have reached the pinnacle of a mountain of books.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Gregor
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Greg, thanks for the highlighting of a great American mind.

    I have read “Guide to Kultur” and “ABC of Reading” as well as the Greenwood Press edition of his wartime speeches from Italy. The first two are a college education in themselves if the reader follows Pound’s suggestions. Pound “bitch-slaps” his readers by regularly telling them he isn’t going to do their work for them, but just give them hints. The wartime speeches are probably earned him the title of “anti-semite”, even though they are more about getting the intended target, American servicemen, to think about what the hell they were DOING over in Europe fighting against their own people.

    But your suggested “entry point” book, “Impact …”, I had never heard of. I immediately went to Amazon and found only 4 copies available in original hardback, used, and in the USA. Of course I purchased one of them. The picture of the cover has the Chinese character “ren”, which means “human-ness” among other things. This alone makes the ownership of this volume more enticing, because as many readers know, Pound was both a translator and afficionado of Confucius. I believe he gave one of the first copies of his translations of the Analects to Il Duce.

    As a person who also appreciates Confucius (and LaoZi, and ZhuangZi), I recommend readers get a copy of Pound’s translations of Confucius, which are in several of the collections of his works. The Library of America edition of his works contains these, and includes Pound’s use of Chinese characters in the text, which is important.

    Pound said (but I don’t recall where!) that there were THREE essential languages for an educated person who wants to understand “the World”: English, Italian and Chinese. Why the latter? That is a puzzle for you to unravel yourself, and I won’t spoil the fun by telling you the answer!

    Don’t forget to check out Pound’s co-authored volume (with E. Fenellosa) on the Chinese written language. While it does contain a bit too much “projection” of their philosophy into how Chinese is actually seen/understood by Chinese people, it may open up a new world for people who have wondered about how/why the “Chinese Mind” differs from the Occidental Mind.

    Thanks for Honoring one of our Great Men!

  2. Gregor
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Greg, since you have the LoA edition of Pound, go to page 676E to read Analects 5:IX. Therein is contained what’s “wrong” with WN in its current state!

  3. Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    “like a lot of modern literature, but to my ear Pound pushes its intellectualist and reflexive characteristics to the extreme and offers very little with immediate naive and sensuous appeal.”

    Philip Larkin grouped Pound, Picasso and [Charlie] Parker as the high priests of Modernist charlatanism. Whatever his choice of monsters, his explanation sounds like yours. He had no objection [although also no interest] in intellectual “explanations” of poetry, music, etc. But he required that the work have in the first instance some immediate appeal ["immediate naive and sensuous appeal"] rather than being something that existed only for some professor to expound [sic] on.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Philip Larkin is a fantastic poet and critic, as well as someone very close to our politics. His book on jazz is very interesting as well. (He was for it.) I would love to run an essay on him. Any takers?

      • White Republican
        Posted October 31, 2010 at 12:49 am | Permalink

        I believe that there was an article in John Tyndall’s Spearhead on Philip Larkin. If I can find it in the collection of Spearhead issues that a colleague has lent me, and if it is worth republishing, I’ll do the necessary work of scanning and proofreading it.

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          Thanks!

  4. Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    “This Saturday, Oct. 30 will mark the 125th annniversary of the birth of poet/philosopher Ezra Pound in the frontier town of Hailey, in what was then the “Idaho territory” of the United States.

    To honor his memory and perpetuate his campaign for justice in economics and against the authority of money in government and society, Independent History and Research is reprinting his classic text, Jefferson and/or Mussolini, which has been out of print for forty years.”

    http://revisionistreview.blogspot.com/2010/10/preserving-memory-and-teaching-of-ezra.html

  5. Posted October 31, 2010 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Pound’s short booklets on finance and economics are gems of cogency, which is why — despite his avid advocacy of what he considered to be “social credit” — orthodox social crediters reject him as one of their own.

    It seems his heresy was that he advocated “state credit,” whereas orthodox social crediters advocate an independent credit authority not controlled by the state; state banking being tantamount to totalitarianism.
    Hence orthodox social crediters and broader banking reformers will tear their movements apart arguing obscure points of dogma on how to implement a new mechanism for credit creation, like Marxists split into feuding factions over the “correct interpretation of Marx.” One might also be reminded on the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where a meeting of the Judea Liberation Front splits into squabbling factions per every individual present.

    The banking reform movements could do well by reprinting Pound’s cogent little books, instead of coming out with the virtually incomprehensible technical labryinths which have done nought but push the cause to oblivion.

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