Remembering Ezra Pound:
October 30, 1885 to November 1, 1972
“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, which fall only two days apart, Counter-Currents has published the following works by and about him:
By Ezra Pound:
- Two Cantos, with Recordings of Pound’s Recitations
- “England,” Ezra’s Pound’s Radio Broadcast of March 15, 1942
- “Materialism,” Ezra Pound’s Radio Broadcast of June 26, 1943
- “What is Money For?”
About Ezra Pound:
- Kerry Bolton, “Breaking the Bondage of Usury,” Part 2 and Part 3
- Kerry Bolton, “Ezra Pound”
- Carolina Hartley, “Ezra Pound on Money”
- Carolina Hartley, “James Angleton and Ezra Pound”
- Beatrice Mott, “This Difficult Individual Eustace Mullins — and the Remarkable Ezra Pound”
- Michael Collins Piper, “What Did Ezra Pound Really Say?”
- Miguel Serrano, “The Death of Ezra Pound”
- Leo Yankevich, “Ezra Pound Enters the Tent”
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 here, 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: (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”: Radio Speeches of World War II (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978). Finally, seek out his various economic pamphlets, 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, 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).
For a good six months of bedtime reading, I highly recommend 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), the appreciation of which I am saving for the end of my life, after I have reached the pinnacle of a mountain of books.
Nueva Derecha vs. Vieja Derecha Capítulo 2: Hegemonía
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 535 Ask Me Anything
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 534 Interview with Alexander Adams
Forward with a Vengeance
Notes on Strauss & Husserl
Remembering Oswald Spengler (May 29, 1880-May 8, 1936)
Remembering Louis-Ferdinand Céline (May 27, 1894–July 1, 1961)
Nueva Derecha vs. Vieja Derecha Capítulo 1: Política y Metapolítica
As much as I wish it were not the case, I know that realistically I am never going find time to undertake a serious study of Pound, Evola, Ludovici, Schmitt and the other important but under-appreciated thinkers that turn up in these pages. But, luckily, I don’t have to because the explications at Counter Currents are so good. This Web site really is an indispensable.
Right after my undergraduate years, I undertook The Cantos, which I read alongside a book called A Companion to The Cantos (a highly recommended glossary whose few shortcomings should be immediately recognizable for anyone on the right). It was right after reading the unabridged translation of Spengler’s Decline of the West during my senior year, a reading which coincided nicely with my growing love for the “canonical” AKA traditionally Western aspects of what modern universities refer to as “the humanities. ”
It was actually Pound’s Cantos that really kickstarted my love and appreciation for the medieval period, the medieval philosophers, and the troubadour poetry tradition — as well as the Japanese noh theater, the analects of Confucius, various aspects of occultism, and the more typically obscure elements and stories within Greek and Roman paganism. Even my interest in economics — which is really more of a minor interest in meta-economics — I owe somewhat to Pound.
Pound’s chief quality as a poet is the burning frenzy that one senses when reading some of his Cantos straight through. The more times you read each Canto and understand its individual complexity, the better of a reading you’ll get. Pound was one of the most truly Faustian men in all of American history, and the great lengths he went to grasp into as many equal and opposite directions as possible are quite apparent from his Cantos above all else. His vaulting and quixotic ambitions are often taken for madness, but they weren’t. The truth is that within his writing and his own self by proxy, he contained the so-called madness that characterizes the Western soul. Every successful white man, even the most ham-fisted and unsophisticated of them, has that element of frenzy that Pound so well represents in his Cantos. Pound was a vortex unto himself who aimed for the infinite by collecting and harnessing surroundings that existed so far out into the recesses of space and time. While most of his promoters tell us that he was doing something new, something revolutionary in poetry, I think it is more appropriate to figure him as the last Western poet — not as an innovator, but truly an ender; a finisher.
Even when we look at Pound’s most negative qualities — his butchered translations of old Chinese, his complete and utter misunderstanding of the Buddhists and the Taoists, his almost dogmatic insistence on speaking colloquially, his insistence on “making it new,” his friendship with the generally useless conspiracy theorist Eustace Mullins, etc. — we can see that almost palpable burning and striving toward the infinite and the ineffable that the Western man has always had within his heart. That is what I love most about Pound and his writing.
Thanks for this Pound bibliography. I had no idea that a collection of his wartime broadcasts existed, and will order a copy via CC/Amazon.
Of course he did: the whole ethos of Italian Fascism was culturally forward-looking: art-deco, for instance, or the impressionist-verisimo operas of Franco Alfano and Ildebrando Pizzeti. We can’t just cling to tradition. We have to re-formulate and project it into the present and future.
Tell us please when the aesthetic clock stopped for you. Don’t keep us guessing.
Here are some pieces by Antheil, a German-American composer (1900-1959) whom Pound admired, promoted, and introduced to all his friends:
The Jazz Sonata (1922):
Serenade for String Orchestra, No. 1 (1948):
Jazz Symphony (1925):
Ballet mècanique, part 1 (1923–25):
I find Antheil quite entertaining, far superior to other classical attempts to incorporate Jazz elements (e.g., Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G or anything by Gershwin).
I like Cummings. Not all real poets are or have to be sages much less culture heroes. William Carlos Williams is another beautiful mind. Beauty is its own justification.
Of course that’s not to say we couldn’t use another Dante, Shakespeare, or Homer.
I liked the poetry of E. E. Cummings a lot when I was young; I expect I still would. I liked the Buffalo Bill passage you quoted, for example.
Note this about him, politically (from Wikipedia):
“A liberal in his early youth, Cummings’ disillusion upon his trip to the Soviet Union in 1931, documented in Eimi, led him to shift rightward on many political and social issues. Despite his radical and bohemian public image, he was a Republican and, later, an ardent supporter of Joseph McCarthy.”
Even his youthful Leftism was not unqualifiedly bad.
During WWI he enlisted in the Ambulance Corps along with his college friend, novelist John Dos Passos (another Leftist later turned conservative anti-Communist). Cummings was jailed by the Allies for expressing anti-war sentiments in personal letters the military censors read. Among other sins, he “spoke of his lack of hatred for the Germans.”
Of course, his political views have no direct bearing on whether his poetry is good. However, as I mentioned, I liked it a lot even as a youthful Leftist.
I also liked the poetry of Negro Langston Hughes. I have not revisited either Cummings or Hughes in decades, and so would have to reread them to see what I currently thought.
Of course, when I read Hughes the country had not been overrun by non-whites or culturally permeated with virulent anti-white racism.
Yes, such was the situation within living memory. The Decline and Fall—the murder, I would say—of Western Civilization and the white race have occurred with unparalleled swiftness and ferocity.
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