28th Ezra Pound International Conference
University of Salamanca, Spain, 25-29 June 2019

Ezra Pound and the Spanish World

report by Mark Byron

 

 

 

The 28th Ezra Pound International Conference finally came to Spain for the first time: a nation of critical importance to Pound and to his poetic education, and a literary culture that influenced Pound in fundamental ways as well as having been influenced by him during and after the time of modernism. Professor Viorica Patea was the academic host, and both her organizing committee and conference support team ensured that the theme of ‘Ezra Pound and the Spanish World’ not only took its rightful place at the centre of the conference, but from it radiated a whole range of themes and influences across borders, languages, traditions. The University of Salamanca was the host institution: the oldest university in Spain and third or fourth oldest university in Europe (depending on one’s sources and definitions), founded in 1134, given the Royal Charter by King Alfonso IX in 1218, and recognised as a university in 1255 by Pope Alexander IV. Both the university buildings in which the conference was held, and the city in which it takes a dominant place, proved to be ideal locales for the adventure promised in the conference theme.

            This report aims to provide a sense of the conference, centred on its academic, scholarly, and poetic distinctions. Spanning a range of activities across the university over five days – and a post-conference excursion to Burgos and Madrid on which your reporter did not embark, alas, but which is subject to a report by Anderson Araujo and a photo essay by Chengru He in this issue – the conference would require a phalanx of reporters to attempt any kind of complete coverage. Apart from keynote talks and special events there were usually three parallel sessions of academic papers, often inducing acute decision-making processes and daydreams of multiform geolocation. This is a perennial theme of multiple-session conferences, and it must be said that the program was put together with consummate deliberation.

            The conference setting itself, within the walls of the University of Salamanca, and in various locations around the city, greatly facilitated the theme of ‘Ezra Pound and the Spanish World.’ A good number of conference participants took advantage of the various events on offer the day preceding the conference itself: tours of the university, its Old Library, the Salamanca Town Hall, and the stupendous Plaza Anaya. The opening ceremony took place the next morning on 26 June in the Aula Magna, a grand hall in the Palacio de Anaya, followed by an opening plenary: Viorica Patea gave an essential overview of the conference theme in her talk ‘The Legacy of Spain in Pound’s Oeuvre’ – the looming figures of El Cid and Lope de Vega were constant presences throughout the event – and the distinguished poet Antonio Colinas gave a personal account of how Pound shaped his own thinking on poetry and poetics.

            At the first coffee break in the Hospedería de Anaya, a magnificent cloister in the adjoining building, conference delegates became aware that no coffee break anywhere would be able to compete with this for sheer architectural beauty, let alone the quality of the drinks and cakes on offer… In addition, two exquisite lunches on Wednesday 26 June and Saturday 29 June were held at Restaurante El Monje, and the conference banquet was held at the Hotel NH Puerta de la Catedral, accompanied by the University’s tuna (a string band consisting of guitar, bandurria and lute, with musicians in traditional university dress, keeping strong a tradition dating from the thirteenth century). The conference also included a wonderful piano recital by Heriberto Cruz on the first evening, who regaled us with Gerhart Münch’s compositions in the Aula Salinas in the Edificio Historico nearby; and the traditional poetry reading was held in the Aula Magna on the evening of Thursday 27 June (your correspondent was unable to attend due to other duties, but can convey inspired reports of the Spanish / English / Chinese readings that took place). This event was fully bilingual, and immense credit must go to Natalia Carbajosa who translated the Spanish poems into English under considerable time pressure. The Spanish poets who read were Natalia Carbajosa, Antonio Colinas, Jeannette Lozano, Mª Ángeles Pérez López, Jaime Siles, and Rodolfo Jaruga; the poets who read in English were David Cappella, Silvia Falsaperla, Rhett Forman, John Gery, Jeff Grieneisen, Chengru He, Tony Lopez, Sean Mark, and Ron Smith. Salamanca’s altitude gave some protection from the heatwave buffeting the plains of Castile, so that the pleasant 30-35 degree days and cool nights were conducive to an extremely rich offering of cultural, artistic, and scholarly activity over the time of the conference.

            The opening plenary session set the tone for the panels, plenaries, and roundtables to follow. The first day concluded with a wonderful plenary on the subject of Pound and the Spanish poets, with papers delivered in Spanish by Antonio Colinas and Jaime Siles, and conveyed to the audience in simultaneous translation by Miriam Borham, Paula Barba, Eduardo Montes, and Viorica Patea. This was a new conference experience for me, and as thoroughly impressed as I was at this incredible service, this event demonstrated how efficient the facilities of the Facultad de Traducción at the University of Salamanca can function. The plenary on Thursday 27 June centred upon readings of Canto IV, with papers by Roxana Preda and Maria Luisa Ardizzone, with Caterina Ricciardi unfortunately absent. I was lucky enough to participate in the plenary on Friday 28 June on the topic of ‘Popular Pound,’ with Michael Coyle and Demetres Tryphonopoulos. The final day, Saturday 29 June, was dedicated to three plenary sessions: the first on Pound and T. S. Eliot, with papers by Jack Baker and Robert von Hallberg; the second on the pre-texts and texts of The Pisan Cantos, with linked papers by Ron Bush and Kenneth Hayes; and the final plenary dedicated to ‘Pound in Real Life,’ with papers by Massimo Bacigalupo and Walter Baumann, two scholars for whom the scholarly community has the most to thank for their immense, tireless contributions to Pound Studies and beyond. In addition to these plenary sessions I organised a roundtable session on the themes of ‘After the Pound Era,’ a topic that had arisen in the Ezra Pound Society panel at the New York MLA convention in 2018 – indeed Marjorie Perloff deserves full credit for raising this theme as a potential topic for further investigation, and her absence from the Salamanca EPIC was keenly felt. Four brilliant position papers were given by Anderson Araujo (Spanish and Portuguese poetry and translation), Chengru He (Chinese poetry and translation), Akitoshi Nagahata (Japanese translation), and Andrew Houwen (Japanese poetry).

            In preparing this report I consulted widely to learn about sessions I was unable to attend: three parallel sessions will mean even the most assiduous attendee only has direct knowledge of a minority of panels and papers. Instead of singling out for extended comment the particular panels I did attend, it’s more instructive, I think, to reflect upon the overall character of the conference with passing reference to some of the panels I was able to attend. Following from the opening plenary, the conference theme was the subject of several panels. For those of us not working in Spanish-speaking academic circles, the roles of Spain in Pound’s work and life, and Pound’s influence in Spanish literature, were revelatory. Several panels addressed this theme, opening out and complementing some of the more traditional language zones one finds in most EPIC conferences: French, Chinese, Japanese, Old English, Provençal, Italian, and Greek and Latin perhaps foremost among them. What was of particular benefit – beyond Spain and Spanish literature finally receiving their dues – was the way in which languages and literatures were addressed more generally. I heard wonderful papers on Pound and Portuguese literature (Mario Avelar), Serbian and Montenegran literature (Radojka Vukčević), Romanian literature (Liliana Pop), as well as numerous papers on Spanish-language literary production in relation to Pound, covering Argentina, Chile, and other regions. I was extremely disappointed to learn that, due to logistical problems obtaining a visa, Irakli Tskhvediani was unable to deliver his paper on the ‘Georgian’ Ezra Pound. Current work by Harsha Ram in particular has given Georgia new prominence in modernism studies, and Irakli’s paper would have bene extremely timely in this regard, as well as enriching the conference’s formidable linguistic domain in new ways. Given that global modernism is enjoying a ‘moment’ in modernism studies, the way so many languages and literatures were given focus through Pound suggests just how significant this EPIC meeting might prove to be well beyond the borders of Pound Studies per se. The more familiar terrain covered by various panels – Romance philology, Pound’s use of classical Greek and Latin texts, close readings of parts of The Cantos, poetry in English, Pound and East Asia – made for four days of intensely stimulating learning and discussion. So much more could be said about each session of the conference, and I am fully aware of the impossibility of doing anyone full justice in this cursory glance over such a rich conference program. I am grateful to each presenter I heard for expanding my knowledge of Pound, his intellectual range, and his influence, in a conference that will stay with me for a long time.

            The final session of the conference was dedicated, as is customary, to the business meeting. Among the several items on the agenda were two of particular significance to this attendee. Following reports of continued far right harassment at one of the principal regular Pound seminars held in a major university I issued a statement on behalf of the Ezra Pound Society asserting the right and expectation of members to conduct their research and engage in scholarly discussion free of harassment, political or otherwise. A revised version of this statement is included in the Editorial to this issue of Make It New, taking into account subsequent communication with other major modernist author societies, some of whom are dealing with related issues of member harassment. The second item of particular importance was the vote to decide the venue of the next Ezra Pound International Conference. Among the proposed locations were Perpignan, Hangzhou, and Kyoto. The conference delegates in attendance voted in favour of Kyoto by a clear margin, with Perpignan a well-supported runner-up. Congratulations to Akitoshi Nagahata, Yoshiko Kita, Miho Takahashi, and Hidetoshi Tomiyama for putting together such a compelling proposal.

            I would like to extend my personal thanks and gratitude to the EPIC organizing committee: Miriam Borham, Jorge Diego Sánchez, Ana Ma Manzanas Calvo, Luisa Ma González Rodríguez, Manuel González de la Aleja, and Antonio López Santos. The PhD team – Paula Barba Guerrero and Sara Casco Solís – also worked above and beyond the call of duty to help facilitate an excellent event, and to assist attendees needing directions, information, or technical help. The convenors – Walter Baumann, John Gery, and of course Viorica Patea – put on an event that will live in the memory for quite some time. This was a most adventurous, stimulating, and rewarding conference, giving each attendee so much to take away and ponder, not least the many literary traditions and writers upon whom Pound’s influence is significant. I’m sure I speak for all members of the Ezra Pound Society in thanking all involved in the 28th EPIC for such a wonderful experience. Let us look forward to meeting again in June 2021, for the 29th EPIC in Kyoto, Japan!

[Following this report is a selection of photographs taken by your correspondent in and around the conference. This is obviously a very partial view of proceedings – in keeping with the physical limitations of the report itself – and many attendees will have seen (or taken themselves) plenty of photographs of other sessions, locations, and moment throughout the conference. Should there be a desire to expand this small photo essay, please send me any images for inclusion in an updated report: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..]