Share via Email The north American critic Hugh Kenner, who has died aged 80 following heart problems, produced some of the most perceptive accounts of literary modernism. The only one he could not get to was Ernest Hemingway, because it would have meant a separate trip to Cuba. Despite his wanderings, Kenner retained an unswerving fidelity to Pound, whom he promoted as the central presence in modernist writing. At a time when Eliot was enthroned as the monarch of contemporary letters, Kenner argued that the era had, in fact, belonged to Pound. He was detained there, from to , on a treason charge, for making radio broadcasts in support of Mussolini from wartime Italy. At a time when what Kenner called "thickets of misunderstanding" kept Pound at a distance from most critics and professors of poetry, he took it upon himself to brush them aside.
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He was an early champion of a number of avant-garde and modernist poets; developed important channels of intellectual and aesthetic exchange between the United States and Europe; and contributed to important literary movements such as Imagism and Vorticism.
Early in his career, Pound aroused controversy because of his aesthetic views; later, because of his political views, including his support for the Fascist government in Italy. For the greater part of the 20th century, however, Pound devoted his energies to advancing the art of poetry. Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, and grew up near Philadelphia. He completed undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his BA from Hamilton College, but he lived much of his adult life overseas.
Through his criticism and translations, as well as in his own poetry, particularly in his Cantos, Pound explored poetic traditions from different cultures ranging from ancient Greece, China, and the continent, to current-day England and America. Eliot , and Robert Frost. Pound contributed scores of reviews and critical articles to various periodicals such as the New Age, the Egoist, the Little Review and Poetry magazine, where he articulated his aesthetic principles and indicated his literary, artistic, and musical preferences, thus offering information helpful for interpreting his poetry.
He forced upon our attention not only individual authors, but whole areas of poetry, which no future criticism can afford to ignore. Hilda Doolittle , Richard Aldington , F.
Flint, and later William Carlos Williams. American poet Amy Lowell also adopted the term, contributing one poem to the anthology Des Imagistes, edited by Pound.
He persuaded Harriet Monroe to publish T. When Joyce and family arrived in Paris in July, Pound was there to help them settle: he arranged for lodgings, and loans … and introduced Joyce … to the future publisher of Ulysses , Sylvia Beach. Lawrence , Robert Frost, H. With the rest of his time he tries to advance the fortunes, both material and artistic, of his friends. He defends them when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail.
He loans them money. He sells their pictures. And in the end a few of them refrain from knifing him at the first opportunity. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley avoided the problems of being evaluated as a translation, since the title refers to a fictional rather than an historical poet. Propertius represents the character of a Roman writer responding to his age; Mauberley, the character of a contemporary British critic-poet.
By the time Pound left London for Paris in December, , he had already accomplished enough to assure himself a place of first importance in 20th-century literature. Yet his most ambitious work, the Cantos, was scarcely begun. And for a time, it seemed that his long poem was stalled. A Draft of XVI.
It is a tragedy, since he is our best poet. With fragmentary, telescoped units of information arranged in unfamiliar ways, the Cantos confounded critics. Historical characters such as 15th-century soldier and patron of the arts Sigismundo Malatesta, Elizabethan jurist Edward Coke, Elizabeth I, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson speak through fragments of their own writings.
Embodying the ideals of personal freedom, courage, and independent thinking, they represented to Pound heroic figures whose public policies led to enlightened governing.
The structure is episodic and polyphonic, but the form is redefined to be appropriate for the modern world. It marks the end of the old idea of the tribe as a group who participate in and share a single, closed culture, and redefines it as the human community in all its complex diversity. To these models, Pound added the teachings of Confucius, historical material, and information from his immediate experience. These goals, personal and public, are present throughout the poem; they also sustained the poet throughout his life.
Later Cantos present historical figures such as Sigismundo Malatesta and explore the relationship between creativity in the political and literary realms. By the s, Pound was writing about banking and economic systems, and incorporating into the Cantos his own ideas about usury, which he identified as an exploitative economic system.
It advocates economic reform as the basis of social and cultural reform, and it could not have held aloof from political reality. Partially collected in as Ezra Pound and James Laughlin: Selected Letters, the written correspondence between these two friends was vast, numbering more than 2, items.
Through it all runs a sense of alienation from a native land he needed to whip, presumably for its own good. An admirer of Mussolini, he lived in fascist Italy beginning in These commentaries often attacked Roosevelt and the Jewish bankers whom Pound held responsible for the war.
For several weeks during that hot summer, Pound was confined to the cage. At night floodlights lit his prison. Eventually judged to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, Pound was incarcerated in St. He stayed in the hospital until when Robert Frost led a successful effort to free the poet.
Upon his release from St. In the years since his death, scholarly examination of his works have continued unabated. Edited letter collections include correspondence with poets William Carlos Williams and E.
The Poetry of Ezra Pound