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Remembering Ezra Pound
(October 30, 1885 to November 1, 1972)

713 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.

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 Translation (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:

Phil Eiger Newmann, Ezra Pound, 2020.

Poetic Tributes to Pound:

About Pound:

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

 

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10 Comments

  1. Lord Cronqvist
    Posted October 30, 2020 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Greg, what’s your opinion about Hunter Wallace’s ongoing negative characterization of Pound and other modernists? The way he puts it, they have as much blame as the usual suspects for the rot and coarseness currently corroding the West right now.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted October 30, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      He’s painting with a very broad brush.

  2. James
    Posted October 30, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    “Pound’s art is very long, and life very short.”

    Not trying to be a smart aleck, but wasn’t he 87 when he died?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted October 30, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Yes, but the rest of us might not be so lucky.

      • James
        Posted October 30, 2020 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, I read that as his life.

        I’m not too sharp first thing in the morning, apparently.🙂

  3. Autobot
    Posted October 30, 2020 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    While I agree with GJ on the cantos as being decrepit artistic failures, I do think pound has a number of charming short lyrics. Read Sestina: Alforte. A sestina is a poem where the lines have the same six end words. Ballad of the goodly free. Hugh Selwyn Mauberly is a longer, intellectual poem, but I find it rewarding. It’s about ww1 and how financiers tricked us.

  4. Eric
    Posted October 30, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Dear Greg Johnson,
    I would like to say thank you for remembering the birthdays of forgotten novelists, poets and essayists. I had never heard of Ezra Pound until I visited your webzine.

    Here is a list of other six writers you can add to your list. They are: Samuel Taylor Caleridge, William Faulkner, Raymond Carver, Andre Jules Dubus II, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen Crane.

    Thanks for all the dedication, time and effort you and your team put in to Counter-Currents Publishing (CCP).

  5. Right_On
    Posted October 30, 2020 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Was bowled over by Canto I (“And then went down”).
    I wish Ezra had continued in the same vein for the rest of The Odyssey.

    “And then went down to the ship,
    Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
    We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
    Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
    Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
    Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,
    Circe’s this craft, the trim-coiffed goddess.”

    You can hardly catch breath, and what is “Circe’s this craft” supposed to mean?
    A prophecy I guess.

  6. Autobot
    Posted October 31, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I think Pound derives mainly from Robert Browning. Browning used the costume of an imagined Italian Renaissance to create his poetry. Pound does similar but shifts the garb to the Provençal troubadour period. Notice how his poems are styled as dramatic monologues. The Cantos are sort of an open ended Sordello, which is a long, obscure literary themed poem by browning. Tennysons wife said “I understood only the first line and the last.”

  7. De Grelle
    Posted October 31, 2020 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Well, according to Alan Ginsburg the poet Ezra Pound had an epiphany after being caged for Thought Crime and did a 180 on the whole “anti semitism” thing. Of course we all know Ginsburg would never lie about something like that.

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