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

677 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.

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 WWII radio broadcasts: Ezra Pound Speaking: Radio Speeches of World War II (Contributions in American Studies) (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978), a sample of which is printed below.

Finally, read his economic pamphlets, reprinted below, the ideas of which are ably summarized by Carolina Hartley in “Ezra Pound on Money.”

For Pound’s views on literature, see his Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot (New York: New Directions, 1968), The Spirit of Romance (New York: New Directions, 1968), and ABC of Reading (1934) (New York: New Directions, 1960).

To tackle Pound’s poetry, all you need is two books: The Library of America’s massive volume Ezra 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).

I also wish to draw your attention to works on this website:

By Pound:

Poetic Tributes to Pound:

About Pound:

Pound is also frequently tagged in Counter-Currents articles dealing with art and economics.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Persephone Gray
    Posted October 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Ezra Pound became my favorite poet when I first discovered a slim volume of his work in the library at age sixteen. Since then he has moved up and down the list a bit, but he is always in my top ten.

  2. Gregor
    Posted October 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    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 was one of the lucky ones who discovered his essays and writings about Reading and Kulchur before being confronted with his poetry. It seems that heading for the poetry first makes it difficult to get to the insanely good goodness of the rest.

  3. Remnant
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    “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.”

    All very true. And while it may be captured under the concepts of critic and essayist, it is worth mentioning other crucial roles Pound played as editor and advocate: it is Pound who edited, aided, published and promoted Eliot, Joyce, Hemingway, Lewis, Williams, among others. His tireless promotion of new talent was rare also for his total seeming lack of envy or jealousy in the success of others. (Pound did not subscribe to Vidal’s famous sentiment: “It is not enough that we succeed, others must fail.”)

  4. Posted November 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hugh Kenner’s “The Pound Era” remains the classic, not only on Pound but on modernism generally. It is the go-to book for those open to acquiring the modernist taste. It has the further advantage of being a masterpiece of English prose, which immediately distinguishes it from any work of literary criticism I’ve read.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted November 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      I agree. It is the best book on literary modernism I have read.

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