Ezra Pound is generally considered the poet most responsible for
defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry. In the early teens of
the twentieth century, he opened a seminal exchange of work and ideas between
British and American writers, and was famous for the generosity with which he
advanced the work of such major contemporaries as W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D., James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway,
and especially T. S. Eliot. His own
significant contributions to poetry begin with his promulgation of Imagism, a
movement in poetry which derived its technique from classical Chinese and
Japanese poetry--stressing clarity, precision, and economy of language, and
foregoing traditional rhyme and meter in order to, in Pound's words, "compose in
the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome." His
later work, for nearly fifty years, focused on the encyclopedic epic poem he
entitled The Cantos.
Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, in 1885. He
completed two years of college at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a
degree from Hamilton College in 1905. After teaching at Wabash College for two
years, he travelled abroad to Spain, Italy and London, where, as the literary
executor of the scholar Ernest Fenellosa, he became interested in Japanese and
Chinese poetry. He married Dorothy Shakespear in 1914 and became London editor
of the Little Review in 1917. In 1924, he moved to Italy; during this period of
voluntary exile, Pound became involved in Fascist politics, and did not return
to the United States until 1945, when he was arrested on charges of treason for
broadcasting Fascist propaganda by radio to the United States during the Second
World War. In 1946, he was acquitted, but declared mentally ill and committed to
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. During his confinement, the jury of
the Bollingen-Library of Congress Award (which included a number of the most
eminent writers of the time) decided to overlook Pound's political career in the
interest of recognizing his poetic achievements, and awarded him the prize for
the Pisan Cantos (1948). After continuous appeals from writers won his release
from the hospital in 1958, Pound returned to Italy and settled in Venice, where
he died, a semi-recluse, in 1972.
A Selected Bibliography
Draft of Cantos XXXI-XLI (1934)A Draft of XXX Cantos (1930)A Lume Spento
(1908)Cantos I-XVI (1925)Cantos LII-LXXI (1940)Cantos XVII-XXVII (1928)Canzoni
(1911)Exultations (1909)Homage to Sextus Propertius (1934)Lustra and Other Poems
(1917)Patria Mia (1950)Personae (1909)Provenca (1910)Quia Pauper Amavi (1919)The
Cantos (1972)The Fifth Decade of Cantos (1937)The Pisan Cantos (1948)Umbra:
Collected Poems (1920)
ABC of Economics (1933)Antheil and the
Treatise on Harmony (1924)Digest of the Analects (1937)Gaudier Brzeska
(1916)Guide to Kulchur (1938)How To Read (1931)Imaginary Letters
(1930)Indiscretions (1923)Instigations (1920)Jefferson and/or Mussolini
(1935)Literary Essays (1954)Make It New (1934)Pavannes and Divisions
(1918)Polite Essays (1936)Prolegomena: Volume I (1932)Selected Prose: 1909-1965
(1973)Social Credit and Impact (1935)The ABC of Reading (1934)The Spirit of
Romance (1953)What is Money For? (1939)
Classic Anthology Defined (1954)The Great Digest, and the Unwobbling Point
(1951)The Translations of Ezra Pound (1953)This bio was last updated on , .
Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho Territory, to Homer Loomis and Isabel Weston Pound. His grandfather was the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, Thaddeus C. Pound; his mother was said to be related to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. When he was 18 months old, his family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 1901 at the age of 15, he entered the University of Pennsylvania, but after studying there for two years transferred to Hamilton College, where he received his Ph.B. in 1905. He then returned to Penn, completing an M.A. in Romance philology in 1906.
During his studies at Penn, he met and befriended William Carlos Williams and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), to whom he became engaged for a short time. Afterward, Pound taught at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, but when he allowed a stranded actress to spend the night in his room, the resulting scandal caused him to leave his teaching post after only four months, "all accusations", he later claimed, "having been ultimately refuted except that of being 'the Latin Quarter type'". He had been taken to Europe by relatives in 1898 and again to Europe and Morocco in 1902. In 1908 he moved to Europe, living first in Venice but eventually settling in London after spending a brief stint working as a tour guide in Gibraltar. Pound self-published A Lume Spento, his first published collection of short poems, while living in Venice.
The cover of the 1915 wartime number of the Vorticist magazine BLAST.
Pound's early poetry was inspired by his reading of the pre-Raphaelites and other 19th-century poets, medieval Romance literature (especially Provençal) and the neo-Romantic and occult/mystical philosophy of that period. After he moved to London, the influence of Ford Madox Ford and T. E. Hulme encouraged him to cast off overtly archaic poetic language and forms and begin to remake himself as a poet. Pound believed that William Butler Yeats was the greatest living poet, and befriended him in England. He eventually became Yeats's secretary, and soon became mildly interested in Yeats's occult beliefs. During 1914 and 1915 Pound and Yeats lived together at Stone Cottage in Sussex, England, studying Japanese, especially Noh plays. They paid particular attention to the works of Ernest Fenollosa, an American professor in Japan whose work on Chinese characters fascinated Pound. Eventually, Pound used Fenollosa's work as a starting point for what he called the Ideogrammic Method. On April 20, 1914, Pound married Dorothy Shakespear, an artist and daughter of the novelist Olivia Shakespear, a former lover of Yeats.
In the years before the World War I, Pound was largely responsible for the appearance of Imagism, and coined the name of the movement Vorticism, which was led by his friend Wyndham Lewis. Pound contributed to Lewis' short-lived literary magazine BLAST whose two numbers appeared in 1914 and 1915. These two movements, Imagism and Vorticism, can be seen as central events in the birth of English-language modernism. They helped bring to notice the work of such poets and artists as James Joyce, Lewis, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Jacob Epstein, Richard Aldington, Marianne Moore, Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost, Rebecca West and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Later, Pound also edited his friend T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, the poem that was to force the new poetic sensibility into public attention.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Recordings of the Cantos
A few posts back I presented this poet's definition of poetry, the most comprehensive I have yet read void of the technical jargon that squeezes the life from poetry instead of inserting life into its essence. I am hoping to obtain his lesser known prose and post on that in the very near future.The Cantos are indeed encyclopaedic and epic over the span of 50 years written from his "inspirations". Notice he was Yeats's secretary and spent years in Italy a habitat suitable to his poetic production. He intended and accomplished a history of the world through the Cantos set to music ,as I have read, using modernist verse techniquews using the backdrop of the Eleusinian mysteries.So I have read.