Ezra Pound was born at a two-storey house in Hailey, Idaho Territory, USA, on 30th October 1885 and died 1st November, 1972. His parents, Homer Loomis Pound (1858-1942) and Isabel Weston (1860-1948) were children of 17th century migrants from England to North America. Pound’s ancestors were - from the maternal side - William Wadsworth (emigrated 1632) and from his paternal side John Quaker (emigrated 1650).
He attended Miss. Elliot’s School in Jenkintown Pennsylvania in 1892, Chelten Hills School in Wyncote in 1893 and the Florence Ridpath School in 1894. He was a student at Cheltenham Military Academy between 1897 and 1900. Preparatory to his attending university, he was at Cheltenham between 1900 and 1901, but transferred to Hamilton College in New York in 1903, from where the University of Pennsylvania College of Liberal Arts bade him welcome.
He graduated in 1905 and went on for a Masters degree in Romance Languages in 1906 at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also registered for his Ph.D but did not finish because of violating the norms. A lecturer Felix Sheiling said of him:
You are wasting your time and that of the institution
His fellowship was not renewed thus putting paid to his PhD work.
Ezra Pound was a French and Spanish lecturer at Wabash College, Crawford shire in Indiana in 1906; a Literature teacher at Regent Street Polytechnic Institute, London, England; Worked as the London Correspondent for (Poetry) Chicago between 1912 – 1919 and was W. B Yeats unofficial secretary in Sussex, England 1913-1916.  He was co-founder of BLAST Magazine with Whyndam Lewis in 1914; London editor of Little Review, 1917-19; 1921, Paris correspondent for Dial, 1922; moved to Rapallo, Italy, 1925; founder and editor of Exile1927-28 and a radio broadcaster in Rome until 1945.

He was married to Dorothy Shakespeare in1914 and had a son by her (1926) – Omar Pound; while Olga Rudge was his mistress and mother of his only daughter (1926) – Mary De Rachelwiltz.
In a June 6, 1913 literary review entitled How I Began; Ezra Pound introduces the outset of his journey in England this way:
My books have made me friends. I came to London with £3 knowing no one. I had been hungry all my life for interesting people. I wanted to meet certain men whose work I admired. I have paid a certain price. I have endured a certain amount of inconvenience to put an edge on my enjoyment”
The excerpt above gives us an insight into the personality and pursuit of Ezra Pound as a modernist poet. His devotion to a cause seems fervid and unequalled, while the pains suffered during the laborious period of poetic scholarship never deterred him. This historical juncture in which he is placed is “not spelt by chronology, but defined by a break with traditional forms of expression and the abandonment of formal poetic patterns and traditional values” (Ogunpitan S. A Comprehensive Grammar of Literary Studies, 1999)
Ezra Pound had his first self published work A Lume Spento out in 1908. A collection of 45 poems replete with allusions to works which had influenced him, of whom are Dante- the great Italian Poet and his work Divino; Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
Pound published Personae in 1909; his first commercially successful poetry collection. Although it received positive reviews, such that it was said to be full of
Human passion and natural magic”,
Rupert Brooke, a literary critic however has another opinion of this collection, when he said Ezra had fallen under the influence of Walt Whitman who wrote in
Un-metrical and Sprawling Lengths”.
It is obvious from the fore-going that Ezra Pound was still evolving a unique style, which would later become a much talked about poetic pattern.
The prolific muse of Pound was at it a year after, enabling the publication of his first literary criticism The Spirit of Romance in1910. He states his purpose thus:
An attempt to examine certain forces, elements or qualities which were potent in the Medieval Literature of the Latin Tongue and are, I believe still potent in our own”
Ezra Pound obviously understands the essence of merging qualities from the generation before him and those prevalent in his days. He appears to set the template for T.S. Elliot’s Literary Criticism, Tradition and The Individual Talent, which explicates an instructive illumination to excellent writing.
His zest to make poetry better resulted in Imagisme, a literary movement which was formed in 1912 and takes his name from the word Image. The original Imagist group included Hilda Dolittle, Richard Adlignton, F. S. Flint, William Carlos William and Amy Lowell.
In remarks first recorded in the March, 1913 Poetry and later collected in his Literary Essays as "A Retrospect," Pound explained his new literary direction. Imagism combined the creation of an "image"—what he defined as "an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time" or an "interpretative metaphor"—with rigorous requirements for writing.
Pound describes the crux of Imagiste writing by stating the following:
·        The first deals with the “direct treatment of the 'thing' whether subjective or objective”. By implication, the writer must carefully observe and describe phenomena, whether emotions, sensations, or concrete entities, and to avoid vague generalities or abstractions. Pound wanted "explicit rendering, be it of external nature or of emotion," and proclaimed "a strong disbelief in abstract and general statement as a means of conveying one's thought to others.
·        On a second note, “to use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation”. This dwells on avoiding poetic diction in favor of the spoken language and to condense content, expressing it as concisely and precisely as possible.
·        As regarding rhythm, it is apt “to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome”. In other words, it means to reject conventional metrical forms in favor of individualized cadence. Each poem, Pound declared, should have a rhythm "which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed.
Ezra Pound’s continual visit the British Museum resulted in his regular meeting with the curator and poet Laurence Binyon, who introduced him to the East Asian artistic and literary concepts that would become so vital to the imagery and technique of his later poetry.
The museum's visitors' books show that Pound was often found during 1912 and 1913 in the Print Room examining Japanese Ukiyo-e, some inscribed with traditional Japanese Tanka Verse, a 10th-century genre of poetry whose economy and strict conventions undoubtedly contributed to Imagist techniques of composition.
Pound moved a notch higher in his pursuit of mastery of modernity in poetry when in 1914 another literary ideal was formed. Vortex and Vorticism were occasioned by Amy Lowell’s disagreement with Ezra over what constitutes Des Imagiste.
Pound changed the term "Image" to "Vortex," and "Imagism" to "Vorticism." Writing in the Fortnightly Review of September 1, 1914, Pound expanded his definition of the image:
"A radiant node or cluster, it is what I can, and must perforce call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which ideas are constantly rushing”
It is important to note, that Vorticism is a much more comprehensive aesthetic principle, it also extended into the visual arts and music, thus including such artists as the Englishman Wyndham Lewis and Henri Gaudier-Breska, a French sculptor.
Ezra pound’s insatiable quest to reform poetry was expressed in How I Began, a literary review published in 1913. He words:
“I resolved that at thirty, I would know more about poetry than any man living… in this search, I learned more or less of nine languages, I read oriental stuff in translation…
It is evident after all, that his works reflects French, Greek, Chinese and other languages at different junctures. He was able to immerse in the cultural fabrics of these social entities affording many unborn generations the privilege of accessing hitherto bulwarks of resplendent creativity.
The first application of his acquired East Asian poetic conventions was soon put to the test. He recounts his experience before writing his two line poem titled In A Station of the Metro (How I Began by Ezra Pound)
For well over a year I have been trying to make a poem of a very beautiful thing that befell me in Paris. I got out of a train… and in the jostle I saw a beautiful face, and then turning suddenly, another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face and then another beautiful face”
Ezra Pound condensed this experience that took him over a year in just two lines
“The apparition of these faces in the crowd
Petals on a wet, black bough”
In 1913, Pound was given Ernest Fenollosa's unpublished notes, which led to Cathay (1915). Pound was fascinated by the translations of Japanese poetry and Noh plays which he discovered in the papers of Ernest Fenollosa, an American professor who had taught in Japan. Fenollosa had studied Chinese poetry under Japanese scholars; in 1913 his widow, Mary McNeil Fenollosa, decided to give his unpublished notes to Pound after seeing his work; she was looking for someone who cared about poetry rather than philology. Pound edited and published Fenellosa's The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry in 1918.
The title page of the collection Cathay (1915), refers to the poet "Rihaku", the pronunciation in Japanese of the Tang dynasty Chinese poet, Li Bai, whose poems were much beloved in China and Japan for their technical mastery and much translated in the West because of their seeming simplicity. The volume is in Alexander's view the most attractive of Pound's work.
Chinese critic Wai-lim Yip writes of it:
"One can easily excommunicate Pound from the Forbidden City of Chinese studies, but it seems clear that in his dealings with Cathay, even when he is given only the barest details, he is able to get into the central concerns of the original author by what we may perhaps call a kind of clairvoyance."
The commendation of Pound’s translation of Cathay (1915) marks the outset of a new writing style, having moved from dramatic lyrics as a style to character studies. This latter style is exemplified in Homage to Sextus Propertius, line 6, (1917)

“Who hath taught you so subtle a measure
In what hall have you heard it
What foot beat out your time-bar,
What water hath mellowed your whistles?
The new form was extended to Hugh Selwyn Mulberry (1920), a poem consisting 18 short parts, with the description of a poet whose life, has become sterile and meaningless. An excerpt would suffice:
“For three years, out of key with his time
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain ‘the sublime’
In the old sense. Wrong from the start-”
The disillusionment evident in this poem is symptomatic of the after-devastation of the First World War. Ezra Pound though denied that the poem is not an account of his disappointment and disgust over how things had turned; the thrust of the poetic piece is of impact such that the critic F.R. Lewis saw it as Pound’s Major Achievement”
Notably, the war had shattered Pound’s belief in modern western civilization and he saw the Vorticist movement as finished with doubted about his own future as a poet. He had only the New Age to write for; his relationship with Poetry was finished, The Egoist was quickly running out of money because of censorship problem Ulysses, and the funds for The Little Review had dried up. Other magazines ignored his submissions or refused to review his work. Toward the end of 1920 he and Dorothy decided their time in London was over, and resolved to move to Paris.
It would be correct to state, that while in London, he created awareness on the modern style of poetic rendition using the movement and models of imagism and Vorticism to drive home his aspirations. These resulted in the followership he had then and the mentorship he availed many others. They include T.S. Elliot, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost, among others who all drunk from the cup of his satiating fountain.
The humanity of Ezra Pound couples his Dexterity in poetry. Conrad Aiken was his friend whose words in a book Ezra Pound Perspectives (page 6) goes thus:
“I feel and will always feel I owe Pound an immense debt, not only for the great poetry and the many illuminations… but for his personal generosity”
The indebtedness described is an allusion to how Conrad Aiken had looked for a publisher for T. S. Elliot’s The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock until he, Aiken met him and the rest was history. Pound Published Elliot and Elliot remained eternally grateful to him.
Pound went further to edit another work The Wasteland published in 1922 from over 800 lines to a little over half the figure quoted earlier. His appreciation was concrete when he referred to Pound as “The Better Craftsman” in its opening.
“Il miglor fabro”
James Joyce should also be waltzing in his grave because Ezra Pound helped the serialization of Ulysses in 1918.
Hemingway wrote of him in 1925:
"He defends [his friends] when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. ... He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying ... he advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide”.
When Pound left London for Paris in December, 1920, he had already accomplished enough to assure himself a place of first importance in twentieth-century literature. Yet his most ambitious work, The Cantos, was scarcely begun.
At first, it seemed that his long poem was stalled. He had written to Joyce in 1917
"I have begun an endless poem, of no known category ... all about everything"
This implies the nature and magnitude of this material of nurture for the modern minds and every literary enthusiast.
His original first Three Cantos had been published in Poetry (1917) and his Fourth Canto in 1919. Cantos V, VI, and VII appeared in the Dial (1921) and "The Eighth Canto" appeared in 1922, but except for limited editions, no new poems appeared in book form for the next decade.
A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925) in an edition of only ninety copies came out in Paris, and A Draft of XXX Cantos in 1930; but commercial editions of the first thirty Cantos were not published in London and New York until 1933.
The significance of Pound's undertaking was recognized early. In a 1931 review for Hound and Horn, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, Dudley Fitts called the Cantos
"Without any doubt, the most ambitious poetic conception of our day"
Three decades later, in "The Cantos in England," also reprinted in The Critical Heritage, Donald Hall concluded,
"Pound is a great poet, and the Cantos are his masterwork"
The long poem, however, presented innumerable difficulties to its readers. When a Draft of XVI. Cantos appeared, William Carlos Williams lamented in a 1927 issue of the New York Evening Post Literary Review (reprinted in The Critical Heritage),
"Pound has sought to communicate his poetry to us and failed. It is a tragedy, since he is our best poet"
Pound was worried when he wrote his father in April, 1927:
"Afraid the whole damn poem is rather obscure, especially in fragments"
George Kearns in his Guide to Ezra Pound's Selected Cantos warned that
"A basic understanding of the poem requires a major investment of time" since if "one wants to read even a single canto, one must assemble information from a great many sources."
The first major critical treatment of Pound's work, Kenner's The Poetry of Ezra Pound (1951) paved the way for other serious scholarly attention, and intense critical activity in recent years has produced a host of explanatory texts designed to assist readers understand and evaluate the Cantos.
Pound re-established a poetic tradition traced from Homer's Odyssey and Dante's Divine Comedy, the Cantos are a modern epic. In his 1934 essay "Date Line" (in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound), Pound defined an epic as
"A poem containing history"
He further declared, in An Introduction to the Economic Nature of the United States (1944; reprinted in Selected Prose, 1909-1965),
"For forty years I have schooled myself, not to write an economic history of the U.S. or any other country, but to write an epic poem which begins 'In the Dark Forest,' crosses the Purgatory of human error, and ends in the light and 'fra i maestri di color chesanno' [among the masters of those who know]"
Bernstein explained that Pound's concept of an epic determined many of the characteristics of the Cantos:
"The principle emotion aroused by an epic should be admiration for some distinguished achievement," rather than "the pity and fear aroused by tragedy."
Thus, the Cantos are peopled with figures Pound considers heroic. Historical characters such as fifteenth-century soldier and patron of the arts Sigismundo Malatesta, Elizabethan jurist Edward Coke, Elizabeth I, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson speak through fragments of their own writings.
Embodying the ideals of personal freedom, courage, and independent thinking, they represented to Pound heroic figures whose public policies led to enlightened governing. Pound searched through the historical and mythical past as well as the modern world to find those who embodied the Confucian ideals of
"Sincerity" and "rectitude"
In contrast to those who through greed, ignorance, and malevolence worked against the common good.

There are instances where Ezra Pound borrowed from the era before him, while other writers followed suit. The first of the instances was in his first critical work “The Spirit of Romance” (1910)
An attempt to examine…qualities which were potent in the medieval literature…”
In his poem, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920), he writes
“Of poetry: to maintain ‘the sublime’ ”
These allusions seem to support the idea of sieving from the medieval age, while the consciousness of excellence is sourced from Longinus’ advocacy for sublimity.
This trend is observed in continuation, when T.S Elliot makes his poem The Burial of the Dead (1922) a verisimilitude of Ezra Pound’s poem April (1912), using the title of the former’s poem as a word to begin his, while dwelling essentially on the same theme:
April (1912)                                         The Burial of the Dead (1922)
Three spirits came to me                      April is the cruelest month, breeding
And drew me apart                               Lilacs out of the dead land mixing
To where the olive boughs                    Memory and desire stirring
Lay stripped upon the garment              Dull roots with spring rain

Inter-textuality finds another leeway when T.S.Elliot takes advantage of the Imagist recommendation of Ezra Pound. The latter had said of his Imagism:
Direct treatment of the 'thing' whether subjective or objective
This recommendation forms the building block of T.S Elliot’s New Modernist critiquing documented in Tradition and the Individual Talent, where one is dissuaded from giving consideration to extraneous inconsequence, but rather dwells on the substance of a literary work.
Ezra pound left London for Italy owing to his hatred of the war and the perception that capitalism and greed were the double evils perpetrated by the Jews and the American people, T.S Elliot followed suit In a series of lectures delivered at the University of Virginia in 1933, published under the title After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy (1934), Eliot wrote of societal tradition and coherence,
"What is still more important [than cultural homogeneity] is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable."
This influence was not left at the level of paper delivered, but was expressed in a line of his poem Gerontion (1920).
“My house is a decayed house
And the Jew squats on the window sill, the owner
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London

From the foregoing, one could infer that the orientation and social consciousness of Ezra Pound rubbed off on T.S. Elliot, prompting him to make evident such as had been explicated. In a bid to corroborate this, a noteworthy reference illumines the anti-Semitic angle of this paper.
Allen Ginsberg- a young poet - states that, in a private conversation in 1967 Pound said very slowly, with emphasis, surely conscious of his being Jewish:

“But the worst mistake I made was that stupid, suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism”.

Pound was also not aloof from political reality. An admirer of Mussolini, he lived in fascist Italy beginning in 1925. When World War II broke out, Pound stayed in Italy, retaining his U.S. citizenship, and broadcasting a series of controversial radio commentaries. These commentaries often attacked Roosevelt and the Jewish bankers whom Pound held responsible for the war.
In 1943, the U.S. government deemed the broadcasts to be treasonous; at war's end in 1945 the poet was arrested by the U.S. Army and kept imprisoned in a small, outdoor wire cage at a compound near Pisa, Italy. For several weeks during that hot summer, Pound was confined to the cage. At night floodlights lit his prison. Eventually judged to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, Pound was incarcerated in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.
He stayed in the hospital until 1958 when Robert Frost led a successful effort to free the poet. Ironically, while imprisoned by the army in Italy, Pound completed the "Pisan Cantos,"
Paul L. Montgomery of the New York Times remarked thus:
"Among the masterpieces of this century"
The poems won him the Bollingen Prize in 1949.
In 1969 Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX-CXVII appeared, including the despairing lines:
"My errors and wrecks lie about me...I cannot make it cohere"
Speaking to Donald Hall, Pound described his Cantos as a
"Botch.... I picked out this and that thing that interested me, and then jumbled them into a bag. But that's not the way to make a work of art"
Poet Allen Ginsberg reported in Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness that Pound had felt that the Cantos were 'stupidity and ignorance all the way through,' and were a failure and a 'mess".
Ginsberg responded that the Cantos
"Were an accurate representation of his mind and so couldn't be thought of in terms of success or failure, but only in terms of the actuality of their representation, and that since for the first time a human being had taken the whole spiritual world of thought through fifty years and followed the thoughts out to the end—so that he built a model of his consciousness over a fifty-year time span—that they were a great human achievement."
Upon his release from St. Elizabeth's in 1958, Pound returned to Italy, where he lived quietly until the remainder of his life.
In Canto XLVII, Pound writes
“Who even dead hath his mind entire
This sound came in the dark
First must thou go to the road
To hell”
Curtains down and now no more, we have the indelible imprints of the great man embossed on our modern literary-space.

Faber paper covered Editions, Selected Poems by T. S. Elliot, reprinted edition, 1972.
Faber paper covered Edtions, Ezra Pound Selected Poems, reprinted edition, 1977.  
The Spirit of Romance, Dent, 1910, New Directions, 1952, revised edition, P. Owen, 195
Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir Including the Published Writings of the Sculptor and a Selection from His Letters, John Lane, 1916, New Directions, 1961
Stock Noel, ed. Ezra Pound Perspectives.  Henry Regeny Company, 1965.
    The Letters of Ezra Pound to Alice Corbin Henderson, edited by Ira B. Nadel, University of Texas Press (Austin), 1993.
    Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters, edited by David Gordon, Norton, 1994.
    Ezra Pound and Senator Bronson Cutting: A Political Correspondence, 1930-1935, University of New Mexico Press, 1995.
    Pound/Cummings: The Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings, edited by Betty Ahearn, University of Michigan Press, 1996.
    Pound/Williams: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, edited by Hugh Witemeyer, New Directions, 1996.
    Ezra and Dorothy Pound: Letters in Captivity, 1945-1946, edited by Omar Pound and Robert Spoo, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
 www. Poetryfoundation.com

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.