Newsfrom Afar.  Ezra Pound and Some Contemporary British Poetries.

Ed. Richard Parker. Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2014.

by A. David Moody


An echo-chamber for the critics


The key word is “political”, as in, possibly,

The Cantos is the defining political poem of its era”; 

            but mainstream British poets refused to engage –

                        “as regards politics a vicious nincompoop”,

            and the New American Poets, Duncan, Olson, Ginsberg,

                        are said to have ignored the politics;

Now British Poundians would reclaim him as a political poet – that is, as

            “ a man apoplectically sacrificing his judgement upon the altar of his rage”,

they extrapolate away from his work to the furthest extent --



            [“The Cantos are “a POLITICAL implement”,

                                           and he added, “like the Div. Com. or Shx Hizzeries/” .

            And Robert Duncan:

           For my own generation, our elders – for me, specifically

Pound,  H. D.,  Williams,  and  Lawrence    –    remain primary

generative forces.  Their threshold remains ours.  The time  of

war, and exploitation, the infamy and lies of the new capitalist

war-state,   continue.    And   the   answering   intensity  of  the

imagination to hold its own values must continue...   The work

of  our  elders  in  poetry was to make -- “a Dream greater than

Reality’ – a time-space continuum  in  which  their concern for

quality and spirit, for romance and beauty, could survive.

So,  “to make gods out of beauty”, and

                              To make Cosmos—

                              To achieve the possible— ]     


 But his “overall grasp of political thought in any complexion close to infantile”,

                                                says Briton Jeremy Prynne;

while Richard Parker observes “a Pound defused

             by an insistence upon and proving (in both senses)

                        the great love that lies at the heart of Pound’s craggy project”.


When Pound’s explicit attachment to fascism forced Eric Mottram to confront

             relation of politics to poetry, he thought of Duncan’s

                            “We couldn’t have a more extreme instance

                                         of democratic composition

                            than we had out of that man who kept hoping he’d rescue himself

                                            by having totalitarian order”;

And Mottram, founder and instigator, asserted

(“against the grain”, puts in the professor, “of Pound’s earlier support

                              for Mussolini and Confucius”)

                that Pound’s criterion had always been “Civilisation without tyranny”;

and he regretted Pound’s sense of failing to reach transcendence in the Cantos

            (“inevitably fell short of the absolute at which he aimed” – the professorial inflection);

And Eric was annoyed by any idea that Pound’s Fascism should affect our reading of his work.


            Now young scholars chorus:


inherent poetic and personal folly in

               the noble, pathetic, deranged Cantos,

their monolithic unity of concept, and

the grandiose – ultimately tragic – attempt

               “‘to bust out from the kosmos’” ;


Besides, in the later sections, his Cantos

increasingly judgemental, resistant to counter-discourses,

decidedly hierarchical system of

            aesthetic, moral, economic, and political, values,

rigidly instructive, dogmatic, programmatic, authoritarian

long-suffering readership, unpalatable despotic tendencies


Jefferson and/or Mussolini, notorious, highly controversial,

autocratic public figures of a distinctly autocratic persuasion,

problematic political ideology, contentious


allowed his imagination to be dazzled by ‘boss’ figures

                             Sigismundo Malatesta and Benito Mussolini


in contrast to Prynne, constructs a fantasy of intrinsic value

                            not contingent on the beliefs or actions of the reader;

in contrast to Prynne,

               hegemonic effect of paideuma, civilisation

                            its culmination the egocentric wilful action of the individual,

                            self-authorising cultural supremacy, historical exemplars

                                         Malatesta, Mussolini, Kung

                                                        their overwhelming authority,

an ideology of authority -- 

                                        and yet, in strange contradiction,

                                        very little rhetorical authority,

                                                    distinctive parataxis . . .


Unburdened by unviable expectations to “make it cohere”

            rejects Pound’s monumental and totalising tendencies, confronts

                                                                                    troubling aspects,

Pisan Cantos difficult to extricate from Pound’s fascist utterances

                             engulfed by dubious politics

anti-Semitic undertones of radio broadcasts complicating aesthetic reception,

            brutality of Great Depression

                           witlessly associated with

                                      deplorable theories of usury . . . . 


A lone voice intrudes: A triumphant culture against capitalism,                     

                                         is it imaginable?


“the answering intensity of the imagination to hold its own values must continue”


         Note:  The above views, with the obvious exceptions, were written by a number of university teachers of British and

American poetry.  Nearly all the words are selected from theirs.  The views – remarkably unanimous -- are stated as

baldly as represented here, without evidence, demonstration, or argument, that is, altogether uncritically.



            “Critical thought is the enemy of authoritarianism” (Alexiei Sayle)

            “Tyranny is the removal of nuance” (Albert Mayle)


        Pound wrote, “‘They want to bust out of the kosmos’”, emphasis on ‘They’.  He used the word “possible”; and he wrote “a paradiso / terrestre”.