Ezra's grandfather, Thaddeus Coleman Pound — , was a Republican Congressman from northwest Wisconsin who had made and lost a fortune in the lumber business. Thaddeus's son Homer, Pound's father, worked for Thaddeus in the lumber business until Thaddeus secured him the appointment as registrar of the Hailey land office. Homer and Isabel married the following year and Homer built a house in Hailey.
The family moved to Jenkintown, Pennsylvania , and in bought a six-bedroom house in Wyncote. Pound's education began in a series of dame schools , some of them run by Quakers: Miss Elliott's school in Jenkintown in , the Heathcock family's Chelten Hills School in Wyncote in , and the Florence Ridpath school from , also in Wyncote. Between and Pound attended Cheltenham Military Academy, sometimes as a boarder, where he specialized in Latin.
The boys wore Civil War -style uniforms and besides Latin were taught English, history, arithmetic, marksmanship, military drilling and the importance of submitting to authority. Pound made his first trip overseas in mid when he was 13, a three-month tour of Europe with his mother and Frances Weston Aunt Frank , who took him to England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Pound met Hilda Doolittle later known as the poet H. Between and Pound wrote a number of poems for her, 25 of which he hand-bound and called Hilda's Book ,  and in he asked her father, the astronomy professor Charles Doolittle, for permission to marry her, but Doolittle dismissed Pound as a nomad.
He asked Moore to marry him too, but she turned him down. His parents and Frances Weston took Pound on another three-month European tour in , after which he transferred, in , to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, possibly because of poor grades. Ibbotson; with Shephard he read Dante and from this began the idea for a long poem in three parts—of emotion, instruction and contemplation—planting the seeds for The Cantos. I resolved that at thirty I would know more about poetry than any man living In this search I learned more or less of nine foreign languages, I read Oriental stuff in translations, I fought every University regulation and every professor who tried to make me learn anything except this, or who bothered me with "requirements for degrees".
There, on 31 May , he happened to be standing outside when the attempted assassination of King Alfonso took place, and Pound subsequently left the country for fear he would be identified with the anarchists. After Spain he spent two weeks in Paris, attending lectures at the Sorbonne , followed by a week in London. He took courses in the English department at Penn in , where he fell out with several lecturers; during lectures on Shakespeare by Felix Schelling , the department head, he would wind an enormous tin watch very slowly while Schelling spoke.
His fellowship was not renewed. Schelling told him that he was wasting everyone's time, and Pound left without finishing his doctorate. I am homesick after mine own kind, Oh I know that there are folk about me, friendly faces, But I am homesick after mine own kind. From late Pound taught Romance languages at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana , a conservative town that he called "the sixth circle of hell ". The equally conservative college dismissed him after he deliberately provoked the college authorities. Smoking was forbidden, but he would smoke cigarillos in his office down the corridor from the president's.
He annoyed his landlords by entertaining friends, including women, and was forced out of one house after "[t]wo stewdents found me sharing my meagre repast with the lady—gent impersonator in my privut apartments", he told a friend. He was asked to leave the college in after offering a stranded chorus girl tea and his bed for the night when she was caught in a snowstorm.
When she was discovered the next morning by the landladies, Ida and Belle Hall, his insistence that he had slept on the floor was met with disbelief. Glad to be free of the place, he left for Europe soon after, sailing from New York in March By the end of April he was in Venice , living over a bakery near the San Vio bridge.
The London Evening Standard called it "wild and haunting stuff, absolutely poetic, original, imaginative, passionate, and spiritual". The book was dedicated to his friend, the Philadelphia artist William Brooke Smith , who had recently died of tuberculosis. In August Pound moved to London, where he lived almost continuously for the next 12 years; he told his university friend William Carlos Williams : "London, deah old Lundon, is the place for poesy. According to modernist scholar James Knapp, Pound rejected the idea of poetry as "versified moral essay"; he wanted to focus on the individual experience, the concrete rather than the abstract.
Pound persuaded the bookseller Elkin Mathews to display A Lume Spento , and by October he was being discussed by the literati. In December he published a second collection, A Quinzaine for this Yule , and after the death of a lecturer at the Regent Street Polytechnic he managed to acquire a position lecturing in the evenings, from January to February , on "The Development of Literature in Southern Europe". He would wear trousers made of green billiard cloth, a pink coat, a blue shirt, a tie hand-painted by a Japanese friend, an immense sombrero, a flaming beard cut to a point, and a single, large blue earring.
Hemingway described Pound as "tall No one ever presents a cape, or shakes a muleta at him without getting a charge. At a literary salon in January , Pound met the novelist Olivia Shakespear and her daughter Dorothy , who became his wife in Through Olivia Shakespear he was introduced to her former lover W. Yeats , in Pound's view the greatest living poet. Pound had sent Yeats a copy of A Lume Spento the previous year, before he left for Venice, and Yeats had apparently found it charming. The men became close friends, although Yeats was older by 20 years. Pound was also introduced to sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska , painter Wyndham Lewis and to the cream of London's literary circle, including the poet T.
The American heiress Margaret Lanier Cravens — became a patron; after knowing him a short time she offered a large annual sum to allow him to focus on his work. Cravens killed herself in , after the pianist Walter Rummel , long the object of her affection, married someone else. She may also have been discouraged by Pound's engagement to Dorothy. In June the Personae collection became the first of Pound's works to have any commercial success. It was favorably reviewed; one review said it was "full of human passion and natural magic". In June Pound returned to the United States for eight months; his arrival coincided with the publication of his first book of literary criticism , The Spirit of Romance , based on his lecture notes at the polytechnic.
He loved New York but felt the city was threatened by commercialism and vulgarity, and he no longer felt at home there. Montgomery , visited the architects' offices almost every day to shout at them. Pound persuaded his parents to finance his passage back to Europe. On 22 February he sailed from New York on the R. Mauretania , arriving in Southampton six days later. When he returned to London in August , A.
Orage , editor of the socialist journal The New Age , hired him to write a weekly column, giving him a steady income. Hilda Doolittle arrived in London from Philadelphia in May with the poet Frances Gregg and Gregg's mother; when they returned in September, Doolittle decided to stay on. Pound introduced her to his friends, including the poet Richard Aldington , whom she would marry in Before that the three of them lived in Church Walk, Kensington—Pound at no.
At the museum Pound met regularly with the curator and poet Laurence Binyon , who introduced him to the East Asian artistic and literary concepts that inspired the imagery and technique of his later poetry. The museum's visitors' books show that Pound was often found during and in the Print Room examining Japanese ukiyo-e , some inscribed with Japanese waka verse , a genre of poetry whose economy and strict conventions likely contributed to Imagist techniques of composition.
What obfuscated me was not the Italian but the crust of dead English, the sediment present in my own available vocabulary You can't go round this sort of thing. It takes six or eight years to get educated in one's art, and another ten to get rid of that education.
Neither can anyone learn English, one can only learn a series of Englishes. Rossetti made his own language. I hadn't in made a language, I don't mean a language to use, but even a language to think in. While living at Church Walk in , Pound, Aldington and Doolittle started working on ideas about language.
While in the British Museum tearoom one afternoon, they decided to begin a 'movement' in poetry, called Imagism. Imagisme , Pound would write in Riposte , is "concerned solely with language and presentation ". They agreed on three principles:. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.
Superfluous words, particularly adjectives, should be avoided, as well as expressions like "dim lands of peace", which Pound thought dulled the image by mixing the abstract with the concrete. He wrote that the natural object was always the "adequate symbol". Poets should "go in fear of abstractions", and should not re-tell in mediocre verse what has already been told in good prose.
A typical example is Pound's " In a Station of the Metro " , inspired by an experience on the Paris Underground , about which he wrote, "I got out of a train at, I think, La Concorde , and in the jostle I saw a beautiful face, and then, turning suddenly, another and another, and then a beautiful child's face, and then another beautiful face. All that day I tried to find words for what this made me feel.
Like other modernist artists of the period, Pound was inspired by Japanese art, but the aim was to re-make—or as Pound said, "make it new"—and blend cultural styles, instead of copying directly or slavishly. He may have been inspired by a Suzuki Harunobu print he almost certainly saw in the British Library Richard Aldington mentions the specific prints he matched to verse , and probably attempted to write haiku-like verse during this period.
Ripostes , published in October , begins Pound's shift toward minimalist language. Michael Alexander describes the poems as showing a greater concentration of meaning and economy of rhythm than his earlier work. Alexander writes that in some circles, Pound's translations made him more unpopular than the treason charge, and the reaction to The Seafarer was a rehearsal for the negative response to Homage to Sextus Propertius in Pound was fascinated by the translations of Japanese poetry and Noh plays which he discovered in the papers of Ernest Fenollosa , an American professor who had taught in Japan.
Fenollosa had studied Chinese poetry under Japanese scholars; in his widow, Mary McNeil Fenollosa, decided to give his unpublished notes to Pound after seeing his work; she was looking for someone who cared about poetry rather than philology. The title page of the collection Cathay , refers to the poet "Rihaku", the pronunciation in Japanese of the Tang dynasty Chinese poet, Li Bai , whose poems were much beloved in China and Japan for their technical mastery and much translated in the West because of their seeming simplicity.
Alexander thinks this is the most attractive of Pound's work. Pound could not understand Chinese himself, yet some critics see his translations of Chinese poetry as among the best others complain of their mistakes. Pound often followed the translations made by Herbert Giles in his History of Chinese Literature  and used Fenollosa's work as a starting point for what he called the ideogrammic method , which proceeded on Fenollosa's entirely mistaken but fruitful idea that each character represented an image or pictograph, based on sight rather than sound.
Yao does not view Pound's lack of Chinese as an obstacle, and states that the poet's trawl through centuries of scholarly interpretations resulted in a genuine understanding of the original poem. Lawrence , Yeats, H.
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The Imagist movement began to attract attention from critics. They stayed there for 10 weeks, reading and writing, walking in the woods and fencing. It was the first of three winters they spent together at Stone Cottage, including two with Dorothy after she and Pound married on 20 April Her parents eventually consented, perhaps out of fear that she was getting older with no other suitor in sight.
Pound's concession to marry in church helped convince them. Pound wrote for Wyndham Lewis' literary magazine Blast , although only two issues were published. Pound took the opportunity to extend the definition of Imagisme to art, naming it Vorticism : "The image is a radiant node or cluster; it is But Hilda and Richard were already moving away from Pound's understanding of the movement, as he aligned more with Wyndham Lewis's ideas.
When Lowell agreed to finance an anthology of Imagist poets, Pound's work was not included. Upset at Lowell, he began to call Imagisme "Amygism", and in July he declared the movement dead and asked that the group not continue to call themselves Imagists. They dissented, not believing that the movement was Pound's invention, and Lowell eventually Anglicized the term. In he persuaded Poetry to publish T. Eliot 's " The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ". Eliot had sent "Prufrock" to almost every editor in England, but was rejected. He eventually sent it to Pound, who instantly saw it as a work of genius and submitted it to Poetry.
Most of the swine have done neither. After the publication in of Cathay , Pound mentioned he was working on a long poem, casting about for the correct form. He told a friend in August: "It is a huge, I was going to say, gamble, but shan't", and in September described it as a "cryselephantine poem of immeasurable length which will occupy me for the next four decades unless it becomes a bore".
About a year later, in January , he had the first three trial cantos, distilled to one, published as Canto I in Poetry. From he wrote music reviews for The New Age under the pen name William Atheling, and weekly pieces for The Egoist and The Little Review ; many of the latter were directed against provincialism and ignorance. The volume of writing exhausted him. He feared he was wasting his time writing outside poetry,  exclaiming that he " must stop writing so much prose".
Pound was deeply affected by the war. He was devastated when Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, from whom he had commissioned a sculpture of himself two years earlier, was killed in the trenches in He published Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir the following year, in reaction to what he saw as an unnecessary loss. He asked the publisher for a raise to hire year-old Iseult Gonne as a typist, causing rumors that Pound was having an affair with her, but he was turned down.
In he published a collection of his essays for The Little Review as Instigations , and in the March issue Poetry, he published Poems from the Propertius Series , which appeared to be a translation of the Latin Poet Sextus Propertius. When he included this in his next poetry collection in , he had renamed it Homage to Sextus Propertius in response to criticism of his translation skills. Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry , published a letter from a professor of Latin, W. Hale , saying that Pound was "incredibly ignorant" of the language, and alluded to "about three-score errors" in Homage.
Monroe did not publish Pound's response, which began "Cat-piss and porcupines!! Moore interpreted Pound's silence after that as his resignation as foreign editor.
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There died a myriad And of the best, among them, For an old bitch gone in the teeth, For a botched civilization, Charm, smiling at the good mouth, Quick eyes gone under earth's lid, For two gross of broken statues, For a few thousand battered books. His poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley consists of 18 short parts, and describes a poet whose life has become sterile and meaningless.
He was disgusted by the massive loss of life during the war and was unable to reconcile himself with it. Stephen J. Adams writes that, just as Eliot denied he was Prufrock, so Pound denied he was Mauberley, but the work can nevertheless be read as autobiographical. It begins with a satirical analysis of the London literary scene, before turning to social criticism, economics, and an attack on the causes of the war; here the word usury appears in his work for the first time. The critic F. Leavis saw the poem as Pound's major achievement.
The war had shattered Pound's belief in modern western civilization. He saw the Vorticist movement as finished and doubted his own future as a poet. He had only the New Age to write for; his relationship with Poetry was finished, The Egoist was quickly running out of money because of censorship problems caused by the serialization of Joyce's Ulysses , and the funds for The Little Review had dried up.
Other magazines ignored his submissions or refused to review his work. Toward the end of he and Dorothy decided their time in London was over and resolved to move to Paris. The New Age published Pound's Axiomata in January , a statement of his views on consciousness and the universe: "the intimate essence of the universe is not of the same nature as our own consciousness. Pound has shaken the dust of London from his feet with not too emphatic a gesture of disgust, but, at least, without gratitude to this country.
With all this, however, Mr. Pound, like so many others who have striven for advancement of intelligence and culture in England, has made more enemies than friends Much of the Press has been deliberately closed by cabal to him; his books have for some time been ignored or written down; and he himself has been compelled to live on much less than would support a navvy.
His fate, as I have said, is not unusual Taken by and large, England hates men of culture until they are dead. The Pounds settled in Paris in January , and several months later moved into an inexpensive apartment at 70 bis Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. In Eliot sent him the manuscript of The Waste Land , then arrived in Paris to edit it with Pound, who blue-inked the manuscript with comments like "make up yr. The Review published works by Pound, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein , as well as extracts from Joyce's Finnegans Wake , before the money ran out in It also published several Pound music reviews, later collected into Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony.
Hemingway asked Pound to blue-ink his short stories. Although Hemingway was 14 years younger, the two forged a lifelong relationship of mutual respect and friendship, living on the same street for a time, and touring Italy together in Pound introduced Hemingway to Lewis, Ford, and Joyce, while Hemingway in turn tried to teach Pound to box, but as he told Sherwood Anderson , "[Ezra] habitually leads with his chin and has the general grace of a crayfish or crawfish". Pound was 36 when he met the year-old American violinist Olga Rudge in Paris in late , beginning a love affair that lasted 50 years.
Biographer John Tytell believes Pound had always felt that his creativity and ability to seduce women were linked, something Dorothy had turned a blind eye to over the years. Shortly after arriving in Paris, he complained that he had been there for three months without having managed to find a mistress.
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The two moved in different social circles: Olga was the daughter of a wealthy Youngstown, Ohio , steel family, living in her mother's Parisian apartment on the Right Bank , socializing with aristocrats, while his friends were mostly impoverished writers of the Left Bank. He wrote pieces for solo violin, which Olga performed. The Pounds were unhappy in Paris; Dorothy complained about the winters and Ezra's health was poor. At one dinner, a guest randomly tried to stab him; to Pound this underlined that their time in France was over. Olga Rudge, pregnant by Pound, followed them to Italy.
She had little interest in raising a child, but may have felt that having one would maintain her connection to him. In July she gave birth to their daughter, Mary. Olga placed the child with a German-speaking peasant woman whose own child had died, and who agreed to raise Mary for lire a month. When Pound told Dorothy about the birth, she separated from him for much of that year and the next. She was pregnant by her return in March.
In a letter to his parents in October, Pound wrote, "next generation male arrived.
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When Dorothy went to England each summer to see Omar, Pound would spend the time with Olga, whose father had bought her a house in Venice. The arrangement meant his children were raised very differently. Mary had a single pair of shoes, and books about Jesus and the saints, while Omar was raised in Kensington as an English gentleman by his sophisticated grandmother. In the literary magazine This Quarter dedicated its first issue to Pound, including tributes from Hemingway and Joyce.
In March he launched his own literary magazine, The Exile , but only four issues were published. It did well in the first year, with contributions from Hemingway, E. By then Homer had retired, so they decided to move to Rapallo themselves. They took a small house, Villa Raggio, on a hill above the town. Pound began work on The Cantos in earnest after relocating to Italy. The poems concern good and evil, a descent into hell followed by redemption and paradise. Its hundreds of characters fall into three groupings: those who enjoy hell and stay there; those who experience a metamorphosis and want to leave; and a few who lead the rest to paradiso terrestre.
Its composition was difficult and involved several false starts, and he abandoned most of his earlier drafts, beginning again in Pound came to believe that the cause of World War I was finance capitalism, which he called " usury ", that the solution lay in C. Douglas 's idea of social credit , and that fascism was the vehicle for reform. He had met Douglas in the New Age offices and had been impressed by his ideas.
During the meeting Pound tried to present Mussolini with a digest of his economic ideas, but Mussolini brushed them aside, though he called the Cantos " divertente " entertaining. When Olivia Shakespear died in October in London, Dorothy asked Pound to organize the funeral, where he saw their year-old son Omar for the first time in eight years. He visited Eliot and Wyndham Lewis, who produced a now-famous portrait of Pound reclining. In April he sailed for New York, believing he could stop America's involvement in World War II, happy to answer reporters' questions about Mussolini while he lounged on the deck of the ship in a tweed jacket.
He traveled to Washington, D. His daughter, Mary, said that he had acted out of a sense of responsibility, rather than megalomania; he was offered no encouragement, and was left feeling depressed and frustrated. In June he received an honorary doctorate from Hamilton College, and a week later returned to Italy from the States and began writing antisemitic material for Italian newspapers. He started writing for Action , a newspaper owned by the British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley , arguing that the Third Reich was the "natural civilizer of Russia". Tytell writes that, by the s, no American or English poet had been so active politically since William Blake.
Pound wrote over a thousand letters a year during the s and presented his ideas in hundreds of articles, as well as in The Cantos. His greatest fear was an economic structure dependent on the armaments industry, where the profit motive would govern war and peace.
He read George Santayana and The Law of Civilization and Decay by Brooks Adams , finding confirmation of the danger of the capitalist and usurer becoming dominant. But as you continue, you start to recognise what Pound called 'subject rhymes', ideas repeating, that build up to an argument about how civilisation should be ordered. Like many people in the aftermath of the Great War, Pound became interested in economic solutions to poverty and war, and much of the poem presents arguments from contemporary economists, which he also traces back into historical sources.
The result is a remarkable text that has the capacity to hold any kind of material--there are even sections of musical notation in the later cantos.
While there are passages of remarkable beauty and precise observation in the poem, one of its great achievements is in destroying the idea that only certain kinds of language, ideas or emotions are appropriate for poetry. During the following years, he became admiring of Mussolini and Italian fascism—arguing in The Cantos and in his prose that the spirit of the early Presidents of the United States was more evident in Italy under Mussolini than in the United States under Herbert Hoover and Franklin D.
He was taken back to the United States, where he was judged unfit to stand trial due to insanity. Criticism has always struggled with how to discuss Pound's poetry in light of his political beliefs: some think his work shouldn't be studied at all. For a long time, readers focused on the least controversial parts of his writing, his early imagist work, and the part of The Cantos he wrote while in incarcerated at the army camp, The Pisan Cantos.
But more recently, critics have started to think directly about the economic and political dimensions of The Cantos , and of Pound's career. This is surely welcome: we need to know about our own history - all of it - and we shouldn't whitewash Pound, or any poet. Prynne are just a few of the poets who have worked through his legacy in diverse ways.
He was among the first to recognize and review the poetry of Robert Frost and D. Though his friend Yeats had already become famous, Pound succeeded in persuading him to adopt a new, leaner style of poetic composition. In that same year he gave T. Eliot a similar start in his career as poet and critic. Pound continued to publish his own poetry Ripostes , ; Lustra , and prose criticism Pavannes and Divisions , From the literary remains of the great Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa , which had been presented to Pound in , he succeeded in publishing highly acclaimed English versions of early Chinese poetry, Cathay , and two volumes of Japanese Noh plays —17 as well.
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