The life of Ezra Pound by Noel Stock

A review of Ezra Pound’s life by Noel Stock must begin by acknowledging the phenomenal achievement of its author. It is comprehensive, detailed, forensic, appreciative, critical and bright, a massive achievement of analysis, research and perspective. Around 200,000 words is also a commitment, not for the weak or for anyone who has only a passing interest in either poetry or the history of the twentieth century. But there is something else, something that, despite the greatness of his teaching, causes this reader to focus on problems external to the text itself. But more of that later: first, the book.

Ezra Pound was undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in twentieth-century literature. Unlike his illustrious contemporaries and friends, however, Joyce, Eliot, and Yeats among them, his name seems to have slipped away from his death in 1972. I read his great achievement, Cantos, when I was in college. I didn’t understand them. In some respects, they feel less like a work of poetry than a lifelong achievement, an ordinary book creatively conceived and sometimes over-presented in which a distillation, a reflection, or sometimes a mere mention, has fallen into poetic form. of any disappearing material that Pound obsessed with. at that time. Cantos was Pound’s creative life, but we must not forget the massive amount of other materials, journalism, music, prose and his economy, for lack of a more precise word.

Pound was one of the founders and drivers of literary and artistic movements: Imagism and Vorticism among them. They were probably not the most durable of the directions. He was American, but he seemed more at home in England and then in Italy, none of them choosing to honor their achievements on their land. But what feels strong about this man from the beginning is his conviction, perhaps his obsession with his own genius. He was absolutely sure that he would contribute to the arts and maybe even change their direction. It seemed to consider its heritage immortal, even before it was created. He felt that it was something new, original and sustainable. And all this when it seems that no one even wanted to read the material or formally give him the time of day. And not only did he seem to deny his failures, but he didn’t even seem to record them. The limitations were always elsewhere. In the early years, he thus seemed a self-publicist, with recognized achievements before being realized, as a modern self-published author who writes five-star, best-selling reviews of his own work. Nowadays, that would certainly never do!

But in the end, perhaps by simple request, along with considerable talent, Pound received the recognition he thought he deserved, though perhaps never in our own contemporary, blunt, instrument of success — sales. Some academics loved him. Others do not. He himself had high hopes for a Nobel Prize.

Noel Stock includes abundant quotes from Pound’s lyrics, always with critical appraisal, sometimes with criticism. Cantos touched so much in their intellectual coverage that it may seem from the outside that no one without the full range of skills needed will understand them. And given that these skills include, among others, a knowledge of Dante and medieval Italian poetry, of Confucius, Mencius and Lao-Tze in original Chinese, troubadour songs in their original language d’oc, Noh plays in Japanese , Pound’s own experimental English, in addition to his knowledge of the classics and their meters, might be thought to be few modern readers of his work. This is probably correct. But there is more to Pound’s modern avoidance of work than his obviously elitist intellectual requirements. Here, too, this review must deviate from literature, poetry, and indeed Ezra Pound himself, to address the related concepts of fascism and racism.

The main reason why Pound’s name remains obsolete today is his marriage to fascist ideas and his obvious anti-Semitism. He went to live in Italy. He considered Mussolini a pretty good thing. At that time, in Italy, he was not alone in this faith. He adopted Hitler’s aggressive anti-Semitism because it was fundamentally opposed to capitalism, if it meant what he saw as a Jewish-dominated banking and economic system, the foundation of this belief being a bank owned by the Rothchild family. He also participated in the broadcasting of pro-fascist propaganda (in Italian and English) on the radio during World War II.

Normally, my reviews are consciously detached. I’m trying to review the book, not myself. Appreciations and dislikes are, for me, completely nebulous and indefinable and even fleeting whims that are always less significant than the considerations of communication or achievement of goals. In the case of Ezra Pound’s Life, the subjective “I” must be included, as the appreciation or not of this poet’s writing now seems to depend entirely on the individual approach of his policy, despite the fact that it is neither analytical nor proactive. in his opinions, as this biography clarifies. In some respects, his policy was as transitory as his current interests, as expressed in the meanders of Cantos. But what can we do now from Pound? Should we even try to understand it? Is dismissal the preferred option? I’d say it’s worth the effort. Don’t use “I”! And this is not because I think Pound is a certain genius, overlooked or even legible. And I certainly don’t see his actions as forgivable! And here I apologize because this review has become something personal, something about me and not about the book, but I assure you it is relevant. Please get out of here if you are worried about the staff.

I remember in the recent past a well-known British television presenter who said live that Wagner’s music was not played in her household because of the composer’s anti-Semitism. I remember another celebrity who said that anti-Semitism was the flavor of the Wager era and that the rejection of the composer’s work only for these reasons should cause a similar rejection of everything artistic or otherwise came out of mid-nineteenth-century German culture. century. .

In the not-too-distant past, I reread Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. In my review I focused on those aspects of the analysis that might contradict the completely neo-liberal interpretation of the work. Maybe I was wrong, but I wanted to challenge the idea that there is only one way to read Smith’s notion of free trade. However, hypotheses about human progress and dignity are incorporated in Smith’s thesis. Hindus, Muslims and even Catholics have their place in history and civilization, but pagans are considered to be a primitive subhuman. I don’t remember Smith referring to the “Buddhist,” but this may be my own memory failure. In today’s politics, how many of the neo-liberal supporters, perhaps neoconservatives of Smith’s own notions of free trade concepts, consider those who are not associated with a large organized religion to be both uncivilized and subhuman? And, given that the assumption seems to run throughout the paper, should it only disqualify Smith’s views on other topics or his contribution to the economy? Another position that dominates almost sections of the wealth of nations is that there is no economic activity that is or could be greater than the total that describes the state. How many of the same free marketers would share Smith’s revulsion at the very idea of ​​a transnational corporation, which he saw as necessarily market-distorting and almost automatically corrupt? This is recognized in antitrust and antitrust law, but how often is this side of Smith’s work cited? My idea here is that we can choose to be selective and we usually do.

I am tempted here to introduce the composer Anton Webern to the argument. A member of the second Viennese school, Webern supported the atonalism of his associate, Schoenberg. Webern was perhaps the artistic opposite of Ezra Pound, being prone to destructive self-criticism and the desire for extreme succinct expression. But Webern, like Pound, believed that fascism could be more sympathetic to the “high art” it aspired to than the mechanisms of capitalism that focused on what it could sell. Thus, he initially supported fascism, eventually at the expense of himself and his associates.

After this considerable diversion, there is finally a moral, namely to be attentive to anyone who supports answers, especially those based on interpretations of the past in something other than their own terms. Which brings me to Brexit! It may seem pretty big, but it follows. Trust me!

I have a recent, albeit apocryphal, personal experience that suggests that the main motivation among working-class British voters who certainly changed the outcome of the referendum was “the escape of all foreigners.” I use quotes to emphasize that this has been expressed to me personally and textually, with an emphasis on “all”. I had just finished Ezra Pound’s Life, and I immediately felt a strange but strong connection to Pound’s anti-Semitism, which was based on nothing less than trying to find someone to blame.

Maybe we shouldn’t judge Wagner, Adam Smith, or even Ezra Pound using the moral perspective of our time. For if we did this and rejected any marriage of racism or religious fanaticism, how much of our human past would we keep? And, given the above Brexit view, the moral outlook of our time is significantly different from that of the 1930s, or even the 1850s, or the 1770s, or indeed any other moment in our guilt game. history?

Ezra Pound’s life is a forensic biography of a poet. Describes a life lived in its historical and cultural context. Like all books engaged in the communication of its subject, it is a masterpiece that takes the reader beyond the limits of his subject and thus gains a permanent relevance. Review this past. We must never deny that it existed or forget its consequences. But it reminds us that, as individuals, communities and societies, there is no rule that prevents the error from happening again. Nor is there any rule to insist that a current moral ground must be higher than any other existing, contemporary, or past nonsense.

About the author


Leave a Comment