On Ezra Pound(‘s 116th Birthday)


Ezra Pound, poet, Rutherford, New Jersey at the home of William Carlos Williams, June 30, 1958 – Photograph by Richard Avedon

“What thou lov’st well remains,/ the rest is dross/ What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee.” Ezra Pound (born on this day) reads here from “Canto LXXI” [2013 update – regrettably the video that accompanied these lines is no longer available – but audio of the entire Canto (from Pound’s 1967 reading at Spoleto) may be listened to here and here) For audio, the PennSound page cannot be recommended too highly, featuring, as it does, not only the 1967 Spoleto Recordings, but also the 1939 Harvard Vocarium Recordings, the 1958 Caedmon recordings, the (lesser-known) 1959 Bayrischer Rundfunk Recordings, a recording of him reading some of his translations of the Confucian Odes, and, even a segment from the infamous wartime speeches. Pound’s distinctive “cranky” (and, latterly, broken) voice should not be missed.

Here’s Pound reading from “Canto LXV” (“With usura..”) in 1939 – and again in 1958

and here’s Pound reading from (the much earlier) “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley”

This extraordinary document – a filmed interview by Pier Paolo Pasolini with Pound may be seen (part of it) – here (Pasolini, in the course of the interview reads some of the poet’s words back to him, including the heart-felt cry from “Canto LXXI”, “Pull down thy vanity, it is not man/ Made courage, or made order, or made grace,/ Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down”:

Here’s more from Italian television (including footage of his funeral procession and Pound at Rapallo)  [2013-update – regrettably for copyright reasons this footage is no longer available]

We have already drawn your attention to the Voices and Visions (tv) series made in 1988. The Ezra Pound episode is very much worth watching. It may be viewed in its entirety here

For Allen on Pound – Here’s selections from his (Pound’s) Selected Essays that Allen highlighted (for his teaching practice). NAROPA classes (from 1980 and 1987) on Pound may be heard here and here.
A central document is his “Encounters With Ezra Pound (Journal Notes)” that opens the 1980 volume, Composed On The Tongue, memories of their 1967 meetings.

The photo above shows him and Pound together (with Fernanda Pivano, his Italian translator – and was taken by her husband, Ettore Sottsass).

Some selections from “Encounters With Ezra Pound” follow (some of this information, it should be pointed out, first appeared in Michael Reck’s “A Conversation between Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsberg”, Evergreen Review 55, June 1968):

Allen: “So explained to him – “You remember I was telling you about hearing Blake‘s voice-?
He hesitated and then pursed his mouth, nodded up and down slightly, looking away.
“But I didn’t tell it coherently.” – so described to him the occasion – “a series of moments of altered modes of consciousness over a period of weeks, etc.” – ending “no way of presenting that except through things external perceived in that state” and so continued explaining how his attention to specific perceptions & W(illiam) C(arlos) W(illiams)’ s “No ideas but in things” had been great help to me in finding language and balancing my mind – and to many young poets – and asked “am I making sense to you?”
“Yes,” he replied finally, and then mumbled “but my own work does not make sense’ [or, “but I haven’t made sense”]
I had asked him before if he would like to come to give a reading in the U.S. at Buffalo or S(an) F(rancisco), say, he replied, “Too late – ”
“Too late for what? – for us or for your voice?” I laughed and continued, explaining mine and our ((Robert) Creeley, etc) debt to his language perceptions – speaking specifically of the sequence of phanopoeic images – “soapsmooth stone posts” – even his irritations and angers characteristic, humors, dramatic, as manifest in procession as time mosaic.
“(Basil) Bunting told me.” said Pound, “that there was too little presentation and too much reference” – referring to things not presenting them.

I replied that in the last year Bunting had told me to look at Pound because I had too many words, and showed Pound as model for economy in presentation of sensory phenomena, via words…So Pound’s work, I concluded to him, had been in “Praxis of perception, ground I could walk on.”
A mess”, he said.
“What, you or the Cantos or me?”
“My writing – stupidity and ignorance all the way through,” he said. “Stupidity and ignorance.”

“For the ear – Williams told me,” I continued, “in 1961 – we were talking about prosody, I’d asked him to explain your prosody to me – in general, something toward approximation of quantitative – anyway Williams said, ‘Pound has a mystical ear’ – did he ever tell you that?”
“No”, said Pound, “he never said that to me” – smiling almost shyly and pleased – eyes averted – but smiling, almost curious and childlike.
“Well I’m reporting it to you now seven years later – the judgment of the tender-eyed Doctor that you had a ‘mystical ear’ – not gaseous mystical he meant – but a natural ear for changes of rhythm and tone.
I continued explaining the concrete value of his perceptions manifested in phrasing, as reference points for my own sensory perceptions – I added that as humor – HUMOR – the ancient humours – his irritations against Buddhists, Taoists and Jews – fitted into place, despite his intentions, as part of the drama, the theater, the presentation, record of flux of mind-consciousness…
“The intention was bad – that’s the trouble – anything I’ve done has been an accident – any good has been spoiled by my intentions – the preoccupation with irrelevant and stupid things -” Pound said this quietly, rusty voiced like an old child, looked directly in my eye while pronouncing “intention”.
“Ah well, what I’m trying to tell you – what I came here for all this time – was to give you my blessing then, because despite your disillusion – unless you want to be messiah – then you’d have to be a Buddhist to be a perfect Messiah” (he smiled) – “But I’m a Buddhist Jew – perceptions have been strengthened by the series of practical exact language models which are scattered thruout the Cantos like stepping stones – ground for me to occupy, walk on – so that despite your intentions, the practical effect has been to clarify my perceptions – and, anyway, now do you accept my blessing?”
He hesitated, opening his mouth like an old turtle.
“I do,” he said – “but my worst mistake was the stupid suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism, all along, that spoiled everything – “..

“Well no, because anyone with any sense can see it as a humour, in that sense part of the drama – you manifest the process of thoughts – make a model of the consciousness and anti-Semitism is your fuck-up, like not liking Buddhists, but it’s part of the model as it proceeds – and the great accomplishment was to make a working model of your mind – I mean nobody cares if it’s Ezra Pound’s mind – it is a mind, like all our minds, and that’s never been done before – so you made a working model all along, with all the dramatic imperfections, fuck-ups – anyone with sense can always see the crazy part and see the perfect clear lucid perception-language-ground-”

Rodger Kamentz’s “verse-essay”, coming off this encounter (we’ve spotlighted it before) is available here.

Here‘s Allen’s poem, “War Profit Litany”, dedicated to Pound.

Back to Pound’s own poetry – and original editions. Here’s his Canzoni (1911), his Ripostes (1912), Lustra (1916), Umbra (The Early Poems) (1920), Poems 1918-1921 (including Three Portraits and Four Cantos) (1921). Here’s Cathay (1915) and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920)

And for a sampling of prose – Spirit of Romance (1910), Pavannes and Divisions (1918), Instigations (together with an Essay on the Chinese Written Character by Ernest Fenollosa) (1920).

Here’s his Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti (1912) – and here’s the 1941 Faber and Faber edition (D.D.Paige’s edition) of his Selected Letters .

And finally, we leave you with this.

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