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Ezra Pound, foreign correspondent to the Richmond News Leader
April 11, 2008 9:45 AM   Subscribe

In 1958, Ezra Pound, after being released from a mental hospital, became a foreign correspondent for the Richmond News Leader. All but one of his dispatches were deemed unprintable by the editor and the one that was printed ran as a letter to the editor. The Virginia Quarterly Review has put scans of the dispatches up on their site.

Because the interface makes the letters illegible on some computers, here are links to the actual jpegs.
First Impressions 2
European response to American elections 2
French Elections
Italian Renaissance
The Mind of Europe 2
They Did It
Permanent Plebiscit Campaign
The letter to the editor
And, finally, jpegs of the two pictures of Pound in the article: 1 2
posted by Kattullus (44 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
To my eye, the second missive, European response to American elections, seems to adhere to the standards of op-ed writing. Were standards higher back then for editorial pages?
posted by Kattullus at 9:47 AM on April 11, 2008


This is great--I wasn't aware of this part of Pound's career.
posted by everichon at 9:52 AM on April 11, 2008


Wow, that piece on the French election is actually less comprehensible than the Cantos.
posted by Bromius at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2008


My Pound story: Years and years ago, while a grad student, I worked as an assistant in the4 rare book room of the Rutgers Library. During a period when not much to do, I began wander through various fields. Came across a letter from Pound to a prof at Rutgers. The letter was in the typical off-the-wall-writing of Pound. I showed it to the 2nd in command, another grad student, nearly done with his PhD. He took the letter for "safe keeping." Some time later, he published it and
put his publication on his resume. I had, then, my introduction to the cut-throat nature of the academic world.
posted by Postroad at 9:56 AM on April 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


Postroad, what a jerkface. I mean, I guess I should have expected it, but man.

Okay, back to Pound.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:57 AM on April 11, 2008


Dammit, Katullus, stop posting. You're making everyone else look like crap in comparison.
posted by nasreddin at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


crazy old bastard, greatest poet of the 20th century. it's always a treat to read him, as disjointed as he was toward the end.

funny to see him in the tank for Robert Kerr like that, not exactly the politician you'd imagine Pound being a fan of.
posted by matteo at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2008


Great post, but (and I speak as a Pound fan of almost forty years' standing) my sympathy is with the editor who decided against printing these ramblings. The author of the article talks about "Pound’s feisty, allusive writing for the paper," but that seems to be a nice way of saying "quarrelsome and incomprehensible." It was a tragedy for literature that Ez got so obsessed with economics and politics. Ah well, some of the later Cantos are gorgeous.
posted by languagehat at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2008


Also, what matteo said.
posted by languagehat at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2008


My ancillary story about Ezra Pound: for some reason, at one point I got Pound and Emma Lazarus confused. Now all my friends think Ezra Pound wrote the poem that's on the Statue of Liberty. Oops...
posted by inigo2 at 10:22 AM on April 11, 2008


All but one of his dispatches were deemed unprintable by the editor

Rejected.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:35 AM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


In an earlier life I studied w/that Poundian polymath Hugh Kenner (although I studied Yeats and Joyce w/him). Ever since I was teenager and picked up a battered second hand copy of that LP where Pound reads his works (recorded while he was in St. Elizabeth's), I was determined to figure out what he was on about. Then, at some point, the fun of that sort of wore off me: I began to tire of Pound's incoherent and showy erudition, his cranky and enciphered neologisms, his broken syntax and polyglot lexicon: the whole edifice began to crumble for me, and while clearly some of his early works have glimmers of ebulliant brilliance, I began to feel that the man was, despite his old world elan, a primadonna and a bit of a pain in the rear.

Rexroth once wrote that the Cantos had myriad typos of Chinese characters, but Laughlin never corrected them in later editions: no one noticed. I'm curious if anyone here has actually finished the Cantos, and if so if they felt it was worth the cerebral masochism. Be honest now.
posted by ornate insect at 10:36 AM on April 11, 2008


After about 4 years lurking on MeFi, I delurk. On an Ezra Pound thread, no less. Well, grats to me.

I have the inescapable feeling that Ezra Pound and his inscrutable missives would most likely be communicated today on the intertubes with pages in flashing 72 point text.

The difference between genius and madness is success.
posted by Xoebe at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Because the interface makes the letters illegible on some computers, here are links to the actual jpegs.
I'm sorry about that. It's tough to walk that line between a clever, simple interface and functionality. The zoomy rendering looks pretty great on all modern browsers, but there a few percent of our visitors will likely find that their browser resizes images as crappily as they ever did. (Ah, the 90s...) I'd never used it to allow the enlarging of text before, only pictures, and I have to admit that I'm not thrilled with a 90% JavaScript mogrification of text.

Incidentally, the author of that piece walked into our office this morning and gave me a deer in the headlights look when I told him that I intend to interview him for a podcast about the article next week. So if you're interested in learning more about this chapter in Pound's life, check the VQR blog Tuesday or Wednesdayish.
posted by waldo at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2008


Xoebe: sometimes the difference between genius and madness in modern poetry is hieratic obscurity, but as Dickinson (whose imagistic line and syntactical idiosyncracies pre-figure Pound's and Williams's in some remarkable ways) famously said, "much madness is divinist sense..."
posted by ornate insect at 10:44 AM on April 11, 2008


Richard Avedon's intense portraits of Pound (1958).
posted by ericb at 11:15 AM on April 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


you can just imagine what he would have said about today's economics - although it probably wouldn't have been comprehensible
posted by pyramid termite at 11:18 AM on April 11, 2008


pyramid termite--likely he would have been rooting for Ron Paul, continuing his case for a return to the gold standard, and railing against Rockefellers. Nothing wrong w/that, even if it is out of touch.
posted by ornate insect at 11:21 AM on April 11, 2008


Super interesting, thx.
posted by The Straightener at 11:34 AM on April 11, 2008


Apropos of nothing, here's an interesting link link about Pound's correspondance w/Marshall Mcluhan--which includes gems like this:

Your Cantos, I now judge to be the first and only serious use of the great technical possibilities of the cinematograph. Am I right in thinking of them as a montage of personae and sculptured images? Flash-backs providing perceptions of simultaneities? (16 June 1948)

And here is a book in Poundiana I've wanted to read for some time, and another one that's a selection of lesser known writings by him--I've read it and reccomend it as a well chosen and well edited way of further understanding the links between vorticism-futurism-precisionism and the modernist aesthetics of machinery.
posted by ornate insect at 11:40 AM on April 11, 2008


Poundian polymath

Finally! I've been looking for a good sockpuppet name.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:49 AM on April 11, 2008


Your Cantos, I now judge to be the first and only serious use of the great technical possibilities of the cinematograph. Am I right in thinking of them as a montage of personae and sculptured images? Flash-backs providing perceptions of simultaneities? (16 June 1948)

MacLuhan is a bit behind the times-- see Apollonaire, for example.
posted by jokeefe at 11:55 AM on April 11, 2008


ornate insect: Your loss of interest/appreciation does not affect Pound's stature as one of the great poets of the previous century. I'm sorry you find him too much trouble, but pulling out the old "Be honest now" to impugn anyone who does appreciate him is tiresome. My copy of the Cantos is one of the most beat-up and thoroughly annotated of any of my books, and it was well worth every minute spent (especially when I was able to give tips to Ben Kimpel, who was working on a book of annotations).
posted by languagehat at 12:55 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


languagehat--I'm well aware my view does not affect his stature: why would I think it did? I was not trying to "impugn" anyone w/my comments, merely curious what others experiences were. I'm glad you found it well worth the slog, and I'm not being snarky here. I still admire Pound a great deal, but I think I experienced somewhat of a personal exasperation towards him at some point. The possibility that I will return to him with a renewed sense of appreciation is not at all out of the question. Certainly this post has helped me to recall why he remains so fascinating a figure.
posted by ornate insect at 1:00 PM on April 11, 2008


I used to carry around a slim volume of Pound's poetry everywhere. I lost it because, while reading it, I fell asleep on a bus and when I awoke, two stops down from where I wanted to exit, I rushed out of my seat and forgot the Pound collection. The book never turned up at the lost and found office.

Steinn Steinarr, who I consider to be the best Icelandic poet of the 20th Century (sadly all translations I've seen of his work are terrible), summarized Pound perfectly: "Ezra Pound is the greatest poet of the 20th Century, but I'll be damned if his most turgid work can't be used to knock out a bull."
posted by Kattullus at 1:07 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


(also, I did not intend my post to be the last word on the matter: I was thinking as I typed, and not attempting a blanket condemnation of the relative virtues of reading Pound. Perhaps I should re-emphasize here more carefully that I agree there is a lot in the work of Pound that is well worth whatever frustrations bear upon the reader in its decipherment. The world of literature is a big place, and we should all be foolish to only read what does not challenge us or occasionally make us want to heave the book across the room).
posted by ornate insect at 1:10 PM on April 11, 2008


ornate insect: My apologies. I've been exposed to so many snide attacks on Pound/Joyce/modernism my knee tends to jerk a little. Hey, "personal exasperation" is completely understandable—that Steinarr quote is spot-on. There are parts of the Cantos I'll never wade through again.
posted by languagehat at 1:10 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ezra Pound counts down the ten worst movies of 1942 over Italian radio.

Ezra Pound's correspondence with Billy Wilder regarding a film adaptation of "The Aenid."

Ezra Pound can't make it cohere on The Dating Game
posted by Iridic at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


languagehat--no worries. About the time I finished Kenner's book The Pound Era and the writings of Marjorie Perloff and others I started to wonder if Pound were not at least partly one of those writers for whom, at least to some degree, the pleasure of reading about him and his work is equal to, if not greater than, the pleasure of reading him firsthand: b/c the critical apparatus that attaches itself to his work is formidable, and the effort to make sense of his more gnomic passages tends towards a cottage academic industry--and also b/c Pound himself, as arch-modernist and natural dramatic, wove his own mythological self-narrative into his work in such a way that it makes the elements of biography, hagiography and primary material very difficult to sort out (i.e. "which part of the analects is Pound referencing here?, which period in Pound's life in London does this passage refer to," etc)--one has to commit to a kind of highbrow sleuthing. That it repays its effort depends on one's willingness to go the extra mile. But again I tend to think the difficulty of the anti-epic long form of modernist poetry (Olson's Maximus, Zukofsky's A, Williams's Paterson, etc) is a fascinating subgenre in its own right. But I would be lying if I said I've been able to make it all the way through any of these works, despite trying, for what it's worth. I tend to prefer the shorter lyrics of the imagists and objectivist poets: I think the long-form is somewhat ill-suited to such a rambling muse.
posted by ornate insect at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2008


I have the inescapable feeling that Ezra Pound and his inscrutable missives would most likely be communicated today on the intertubes with pages in flashing 72 point text.

Nah. He'd end up where his kind always does.


John Maynard Keynes meeting God on the 5:15 train.
posted by concupiscent curds (7 comments total) [add to favorites] [!] 14 users marked this as a favorite


2 Wiki links + 1 YT? This is flagtacularicious. Not to mention bad.
posted by whizzerton901 at 9:27 PM on April 11 [+] [!]


Hey did I ever tell you guys about the time I met Keynes?

I got the falp-doodle invited to a tea party (name of hostess available on demand, tho' I have forgotten the address, which could, of course, be rediscovered by reference to old London telephone book). I had him dragged out in order to confront him with the late C.H. Douglas.

And Douglas asked him what he (Keynes) considered to be the cause of High Cost of Living.

And Keynes (afterwards Lord Keynes) replied: Lack of labour. (Pronounced lacck of LayBohr).

And there were two million men out of work in London at that time.

And that is the sort of hog-was the american professoriate swallows and hands on to the successive generations of students, in the great and omniverous urge to branwash the electorate.
posted by USURA at 3:42 AM on April 12 [6 favorites +] [!]


And that is the sort of hog-was the american professoriate swallows and hands on to the successive generations of students, in the great and omniverous urge to branwash the electorate.

This is why we need Obama.
posted by plonker at 3:43 AM on April 12 [109 favorites +] [!]


"hog-was"? "omniverous"? Someone clearly washed your bran.
posted by The Circus Clown's Carnivorous Longings at 8:11 AM on April 12 [2 favorites +] [!]


Jesus Krist dude I just got out of the mental hospittal.
posted by USURA at 9:06 AM on April 12 [+] [!]


It shows.
posted by The Circus Clown's Carnivorous Longings at 9:17 AM on April 12 [+] [!]


MeTa.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:21 AM on April 12 [+] [!]
posted by dyoneo at 2:12 PM on April 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


Just in case anyone thinks differently, I do not think that Postroad is a jerkface, but rather the person that covertly published the letter. Just to make that clear. (I am so off my game today.)
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:12 PM on April 11, 2008


Wonderful, wonderful post. Can't wait to take some time and follow these links.

When I was in college I was a part of a little month-long Euro singing tour, which took us near Merano, in Northern Italy. We had a day off and I decided to spend some time walking the around the insanely gorgeous outer-limits. About two hours down a trail, I hit a clearing, which opened up to some ridiculously idyllic castle, like Dark-Ages-fantasy idyllic, just sitting there on the cliffside. It turns out the castle had been turned into a museum of sorts, but "museum" in name only-- no tour guides or brochures, just this nice protected space. I thought, "Well damn, it doesn't really get better than this."

So I walk into this room that looks directly over the valley and it's filled with all sorts of books and busts and manuscripts. I take a closer look and see a 1st Ed. of the Cantos, Cantos manuscripts, and then realize that the busts are of Ezra Pound. I'd stumbled upon the Schloss Brunnenburg, the castle where Pound finished his Big Work and eventually died in 1972.

Spent a few hours just soaking up the space, but I had to hurry back. On my way out, there was an English-speaking twentysomething lugging stuff around, and I asked him if he were studying at the nearby university. "Well, I'm from North Carolina, but I was traveling around Italy about three years ago, found this place, and decided not to leave."
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 4:02 PM on April 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just in case anyone thinks differently, I do not think that Postroad is a jerkface, but rather the person that covertly published the letter.

I don't understand why the person shouldn't have published the letter. Postroad didn't own it; it belonged to the library; so what was the problem with publishing it?
posted by jayder at 4:49 PM on April 11, 2008


what was the problem with publishing it?

It's the candy-from-a-baby thing. "Wow, this is great! In factm, it's publishable! Would you mind? Or would you rather do it yourself?"

Ungenerous.

Myself, I don't the Pound thing, and only partially because of working with a guy who was besotted by him and wrote really bad imitiations (which I expect sounds funny form someone who isn't moved by the originals). To those who do appreciate him - could someone direct me to, say, the top five cantos or whatever else really floats your boat? And/or a really good appreciation of his stuff.

In your hands, folks. If I don't get it this time, I'm willing to toss in the towel.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:05 PM on April 11, 2008


I have a habit of reciting "Ancient Music" whenever I find myself trudging through really nasty weather.
posted by RavinDave at 5:13 PM on April 11, 2008


Oh, and speaking of Pound (and libraries!), one of my favorite stack-browsing finds ever was this book collecting letters between Ezra Pound and e.e. cummings. The content is A-1, but the real pleasure is reading two intensely bright brains go back and forth for nobody's joy but their own.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:20 PM on April 11, 2008


indigojones--best place to start w/Ez's poetry is and always will be this book
posted by ornate insect at 5:29 PM on April 11, 2008


I'm very fond of Pounds Christmas poem Villonaud for This Yule.
posted by Kattullus at 6:32 PM on April 11, 2008


likely he would have been rooting for Ron Paul, continuing his case for a return to the gold standard,

no, he was all for that social credit stuff - sigh - a great poet destroyed by economic crankery and anti-semitism

but indigojones, he was capable of magnificent stuff
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 PM on April 11, 2008


Iridic

The man clearly was in desperate need of a thesaurus.
posted by Target Practice at 4:16 AM on April 12, 2008


IndigoJones: I would start with "The Return," Canto I, and the amazing poems in Cathay—if you don't like any of those, you just don't like Pound, and there's no harm in that. If you do, pick up the Selected Poems (linked by ornate insect above) and dive in.
posted by languagehat at 5:26 AM on April 12, 2008


I will persevere. Maybe it will take this time. Thank you all
posted by IndigoJones at 10:11 AM on April 16, 2008


Oh hells. A whole treasure trove of more Poundiana has just been posted by Virginia Quarterly Review. This is worthy of an FPP in and of itself, but this thread being still open, I'll append it to the thread. Jon Schneider, writer of the article Ezra Pound: Foreign Correspondent, has a new article on the publication of Canto 99 in Virginia Quarterly Review back in 1958 (a minor subthread in the prior article). Here's an excerpt:
Another poetry editor, Thomas Abernethy, later commented on the manuscript during the proofing stage, writing, “Does this nonsense belong in a scholarly Review?” and after the last line of the poem “If this is poetry, God save the arts!” Despite the editorial division, Kohler eagerly wrote Pound on March 31, accepting the poem for publication in the upcoming summer issue. It would become Ezra Pound’s first publication following his release from St. Elizabeth’s in 1958.
There are scans of a whole mess of letters to and from Pound, and, most preciously, a scan of the manuscript of Canto 99. Oh, waldo mentioned that Schneider would be interviewed in a podcast, but it doesn't seem to have happened.
posted by Kattullus at 3:39 PM on May 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Kattullus!
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on May 4, 2008


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