A great part of this number of Make It New is dedicated to the Ezra Pound International Conference in Brunnenburg, the major community event of this year. For those Poundians who were not privileged to be there, our issue offers a few of the important coordinates of this conference in an illustrated diary, four presentations, the book exhibit, new publications and poems. We know that EPICs are not like other conferences: they have always been special – this year it was more evident than in any other. In one of our conversations, John Gery remarked in a mood swinging between bitterness and resignation that he never received any help from his university for these events. Though he had told that to me before, it was at Brunnenburg that the penny finally dropped. We all go to the MSA, MLA, ALA conferences, gigantic affairs where one is almost always alone in a crowd of people whose interests almost entirely diverge. Meeting scholars with similar interests at these events is like being accidentally stung by the proverbial needle. While the environment of the luxury hotels where they are enacted creates a sense of the importance of what we do, this sense is never personalized.
By contrast, at the EPICs we are all friends, even if we do not meet and greet everyone. We converge at social gatherings, we refer to a common pool of knowledge, our imagination jumps with excitement for the same things. The EPICs are witness to what individuals can do for others to create an unforgettable experience. They create a sense of where we belong. They involve the party we long to get back to, the people we want to meet, the tourist program that is the highlight of a lifetime. The reason the EPICs are so special is precisely that large organizations have no say in them. In this year at Brunnenburg, the EPIC was even more personal than usual since Walter Baumann and John Gery worked with Pound’s family for the event. Mary was as ever the gracious host, our presiding saint. Siegfried de Rachewiltz and the whole family managed every detail to make this event unforgettable. From us all, a deep bow of gratitude.
Other parts of this MIN issue are also linked to Brunnenburg and I would like to spell out these connections where they are, or seem, obscure. In Portrait of a Scholar, MIN features Richard Dean Taylor, who is a friend of the family and who organized the Brunnenburg EPICs in 1991 and 1997. Rick lives in Germany at Bayreuth and often visits his lifelong friend, Eva Hesse. Her portrait was the centerpiece of the first number of MIN last year. This time, MIN highlights Wieland Schmied, another German scholar with a lifetime involvement in Pound studies. Schmied made his pilgrimage to Brunnenburg in 1958 and met Pound personally that year. For the latter part of his career, he lived in Munich, the city where Hesse spent her life. Schmied also told Pound about Oswald von Wolkenstein, whom Richard Sieburth translated and published for Mary de Rachewiltz’s 90’s birthday. This is then a gift with a history, hers, her father’s, and her son’s: a sample of Wolkenstein’s poetry is reproduced in MIN with permission, together with Siegfried de Rachewiltz’s delightful biographical Foreword. What makes Wolkenstein so special is not only the biographical connection to Pound’s family. Reading him, we find that this is not your usual troubadour: Oswald writes as an old man and passes review on his life with complete indifference to literary mannerism: his sincerity and authenticity mirror Pound’s in the most candid, confessional sections of The Cantos. This is why I find that Schmied’s and Taylor’s pilgrimages to Brunnenburg, their writings, and lifelong affection for Pound’s work mirror our own. In other folds of history, we find colleagues and models that we need and recognize.