Article Index








Transnationalism, Pound, and Japanese Modernism

Ryan Johnson

If, as Josephine Park declares, “contemporary modernist studies has staked its present relevance on the transnational turn,”[1] a magazine devoted to a preeminently transnational modernist is well placed to survey the new territory of this scholarly mania. If the question of how well Pound knew his stuff when talking about East Asia has dominated the field (Bush 2016, Hayot, Park, Byron),[2] the question of what was going on in Chinese and Japanese literature while Pound was imaging the Far East has not received comparable attention. This one-sidedness is not unique to Pound studies. At the recent MSIA at Aoyama University, Aaron Gerow implored us to understand Japanese modernism from a Japanese perspective. If we are seriously to consider modernism as an international movement, or to entertain the possibility of multiple modernisms, then, Gerow reasoned, we should be prepared to listen to Japanese scholars who might introduce concepts and texts that our current definitions of modernism cannot easily digest. The inclusion of Kazuko Nagamori’s essay on Tanizaki Jun’ichiro’s 谷崎潤一郎 “Himitsu” 「秘密」[“The Secret”] in this issue of Make It New seeks to redress this imbalance and to further this dialogue.

Nagamori positions “Himitsu” as the starting point of Japanese modernism. Christopher Bush points out that “the range of [modernism’s] application and its relevance to East Asia remain subjects of debate.”[3] Where ‘modernism’ in the Anglosphere denotes a relatively tight group of artists self-consciously working, often together, to reject Victorian and Edwardian aesthetic models in light of cataclysmic events such as the Great War, the term in Japan is more diffuse. If it refers to the change brought about in Japanese literature thanks to Western influence, then the starting point of Japanese modernism may well predate its English counterpart to encompass the Meiji-era work of artists such as Mori Ōgai 森鴎外, Tsubouchi Shōyō 坪内逍遥, or Natsume Sōseki 夏目漱石. Yet the sentimentalism associated with many of these authors seems distant from the traits typically associated with ‘modernism’ as we know it. A more persuasive approach is to view Taishō Modern, especially in the aftermath of the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, as the origin of Japanese modernism. The spread of cafes, cinemas, trams, and other forms of “modern” life, a spread accelerated after the destruction and rebuilding of Tokyo after the Earthquake, looks more congenial to standard understandings of modernism and its contexts. Here, New Sensationalism 新感覚派 [shinkakuha], a literary movement perhaps best exemplified for a foreign audience by the early work of Japan’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, Kawabata Yasunari 川端康成, emerges as the most obvious correlate to English modernism. As Bush notes, shinkakuha took inspiration from several contemporary European movements including Surrealism; yet, like most all “modern” Japanese literary movements, retained a “proximity to popular culture. Rather than signalling a sphere of high, elite art distinguishing itself from the popular, modanizumu always had strong ties to popular culture, including cinema, cabaret, and detective fiction.”[4] Even at the spots of greatest resemblance, crucial contextual divides drive Japanese “modernism” away from modernism in the West.

Nagamori’s essay does not aim to settle this debate. Rather, she demonstrates that Japanese modernism might indeed be best placed earlier in the century. The characteristics of shinkakuha, she mentions, are already present in “Himitsu.” The unnamed narrator, to whom I will refer as “Watashi” [“I”], takes pleasure in dressing up as a woman in modern Asakusa. The pleasure he finds is not only in the sensation of the female kimono on his skin, but also in the thrill of being mistaken for a woman by passersby. Nagamori reminds us that the long Japanese history of cross-dressing, a phenomenon not associated necessarily with homosexuality but with the frisson of opening the body to multiple identities, was targeted in the Meiji era by officials who did not wish to be embarrassed by disapproving Western visitors. Devouring foreign literature in a Shingon 真言 temple, wandering the streets of modern Akasuka and visiting cinemas while taking part in a practice identified with an old Japan meant to be surpassed, Watashi seems to embody the plural identities of modern Tokyo, and the conflicts upon which later Japanese modernist movements founded themselves.

Nagamori’s insistence that Japanese modernism begins with “Himitsu” echoes similar claims made by critics of other media. Surveying the history of twentieth-century Japanese art, Michael Lucken wonders whether the modernity that swept in with the Great Kantō Earthquake does not have roots extending back to the previous decade. Considering the emergence of nostalgia for the Edo period, Lucken writes:

Les quartiers populaires, du côté d’Asakusa notamment, avaient été réduits en cendres et toute une partie de l’«atmosphère» du passé avait disparu avec eux. A grande échelle, l’importance de cette brutale coupure est indéniable. Cependant, lorsqu’on considère les choses dans le détail, tout un ensemble de signes montrent que dès les années 1910 une envie de mieux connaître cette époque déjà lointain était en train de murir chez les intellectuels et chez les artistes de la nouvelle génération.[5]

The illusory past that Nagamori describes Watashi searching for in the labyrinthine structure of Asakusa may be read of an example of this early nostalgia for a bygone city and way of life. Granted, Lucken is not talking about modernism as such, but the past that he describes as arising out of comparison with modernity is the very one that Nagamori views as integral to modernism in Himitsu. Here we may see one of the elements of Japanese modernism arising: the clash of new Western technology and modes of life—that were, in many instances such as with cinema, actually found earlier in Japan than in many Western countries—with early Japanese customs. The clash creates a fictive Japanese past after which people yearn. This complicated double movement makes someone like Watashi consciously out of time and yet, in his situation between a bewildering present and a newly created past, a man of his time, of “modernism” or modernity. Watashi’s eventual move to the heart of the old city, a move to a place that Nagamori suggests Watashi wishes to transcend time and space, is both a rejection of modernity and a performance of it. After all, the very desire to escape modernity by way of the past, to find a way forward by breaking the rules of linear time, is a modernist move if ever there were one.[6]

The inclusion of Nagamori’s essay here, then, is not to give us an insight into the “Japan” that Pound knew, but to illuminate aspects of Japan and Japanese literature as they existed just before Pound’s fateful encounter with the Ernest Fenollosa manuscripts. Not only that: Nagamori’s work reminds us—a reminder we perhaps still need—that the contours of Japanese literature are not themselves fixed, a stable and passive entity against which the flux of English modernity defined itself. Rather, Japanese modernism, both as a moment in literary history and as a field of enquiry, is as contradictory, volatile, and invigorating as any found in Europe or America. It is a field that has rested long outside of the purview of Pound studies, but one with which we will now be able productively to grapple.


[1] Josephine Park, “The Transnational Turn,” in Mark Byron, ed., The New Ezra Pound Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, p. 182.

[2] See Christopher Bush, “’I am all for the triangle’: The Geopolitical Aesthetic of Pound’s Japan,” Paul Stasi and Josephine Park, eds., Ezra Pound in The Present. Bloomsbury, 2016; Eric Hayot, Chinese Dreams : Pound, Brecht, Tel Quel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004; Josephine Nock-Hee Park, Apparitions of Asia: Modernist Form and Asian American Politics, Oxford University Press, 2008; Mark Byron, “Ezra Pound and East Asian Art,” in Roxana Preda, ed., The Edinburgh Companion to Ezra Pound in the Arts, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019.

[3] Christopher Bush, "Modernism in East Asia," The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor and Francis, 2016. doi:10.4324/9781135000356-REMO17-1

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Working class neighborhoods, Asakusa notably, had been reduced to ash and with them a part of the “atmosphere” of the past had disappeared. At large, the importance of this brutal rupture is undeniable. Yet, when we consider things in detail, a multitude of signs show that from the 1910s a desire better to know this already long-gone epoque was in the process of evolving among intellectuals and artists of the new generation.” [my translation] Michael Lucken, “L’Art d’Edo: Un art du vigntième siècle,” Cipango: Cahiers d’études japonaises no. 12 (2005), p. 283.

[6] See Park, pp. 183-185, for more on how Pound himself makes such a move to deform time and space.








Tanizaki’s Himitsu : the Starting Point of Japanese Modernism

Kazuko Nagamori



Jun’ichiro Tanizaki谷崎潤一郎 was born in Kakigara-cho, Nihonbashi-ku, Tokyo in 1886 (Meiji 19). He made his debut as a writer in 1910 (Meiji 43), publishing several short stories, including Shisei (“The Tattoo”)「刺青」in the magazine Shin-Shicho「新思潮」. By the time of his death at the age of 79 in 1965 (Showa 40) he had produced a large body of work. He stated in an essay in 1945, “My work after I moved to Kansai at the end of the Taisho era was clearly distinct from what I had done previously. Frankly, there are many of my previous works that I no longer want to be associated with.”[1] It is clear that Tanizaki in later life did not wish to acknowledge many of the short stories that he wrote from his debut and throughout the Taisho era because they were very different in style to his later work. He himself recognized the unique character of his Taisho-era work,[2] which was reflective of that period. I will argue this earlier work can be seen as some of the first examples of Japanese modernist literature.

It is common for modernism in Japanese literature to be recognized as beginning with the Shin-kankaku-ha (New Sensationism) 新感覚派 that began at the end of Taisho. Yasunari Kawabata 川端康成 and Riichi Yokomitsu 横光利一 were members. Shin-kankaku-ha was a literary movement aimed to create literature that recognized the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) as the end point of established literary arts, and was influenced by international avant-garde art such as Dadaism and Surrealism. Hiroshi Unno, however, claims that the Japanese avant-garde movement started before the Great Kanto Earthquake, and so the earthquake was not necessarily a turning point. He also points out that in the 1920s various media such as literature, art, drama, music, architecture, movies, as well as general Japanese customs, crossed boundaries and influenced each other so closely that it is not possible to sufficiently capture the great changes of the times by analyzing just one of them.[3] Further, Shunya Yoshimi asserts that the foundations of Japanese modernism can be traced back to the mid-1910s, when capitalism grew rapidly due to World War I.[4]

The first car arrived in Japan in 1899 (Meiji 32). This was followed by the first movie theater, Denki-kan 電気館, which opened in Asakusa in 1903 (Meiji 36). The first department store, Mitsukoshi-gofuku-ten 三越呉服店, was established in 1904 (Meiji 37), and some of the first cafes, Cafe Purantan (Printemps) カフェプランタンand Cafe Raion (Lion) カフェライオン, were opened in Ginza in 1911 (Meiji 44). If we see modernism in Japan as characterized by these developments, it is possible to claim that some literary movements depicted new urban sensibilities linked to these trends in popular culture in cities beginning in the late Meiji era. A society that was changing drastically created a new culture, and that culture changed the sensibilities and the way of thinking of people living in cities to something clearly distinct from what had come before.

This essay mainly discusses one of Tanizaki’s early works, Himitsu (“The Secret”)「秘密」, which was published in the November issue of the literary journal Chuo-Koron「中央公論」 in 1911. This short story presents such themes as life in the urban underworld, the feelings of ennui associated with urban living, identity confusion, body modification, tactile fascination, mystery, images of foreign countries, hypnosis, and magic. Common also to Western modernism, all of these themes would also feature in Tanizaki’s later works, as well as in those of Ryunosuke Akutagawa芥川龍之介, Haruo Sato佐藤春夫, and Ranpo Edogawa江戸川乱歩. Therefore, Himitsu can be seen as a pioneering work, as various literary themes that developed from the Taisho era to the early Showa era first appeared in this short story. This essay considers Himitsu through the themes of the body (skin), differing perceptions (gaze), and the secret life of the city (alleys), and argues for the positioning of Himitsu as the starting point of Japanese modernism.[5]



Firstly, I will give an overview of cross-dressing in the social context of the time when Himitsu was written, before considering the specific significance of the cross-dressing of the main protagonist. He comes to think it would be interesting if he committed various crimes in female costume like the kabuki character Benten Kozo 弁天小僧. Benten Kozo is a main character in the famous Kabuki play Aoto Zoshi Hana no Nishiki-e『青砥稿花紅彩画』, which was written by Mokuami Kawatake 河竹黙阿弥 and premiered in the Edo Period in 1862. Benten Kozo turns himself into a beautiful young woman and hatches a plot to extort money from the owner of a cloth store. Junko Saeki claims that Benten Kozo is a character who deliberately plays around with aspects of gender identity.[6] Benten Kozo commits a playful crime through transvestitism, because he has the guarantee that he can return to a man’s identity whenever he needs to.

In 1873 (Meiji 6), the first statute prohibiting male and female masquerades was promulgated, the purpose of which was to correct the customs of the people so that the Japanese governing elite (in the newly opened Japan) did not feel ashamed in the eyes of Westerners.[7] Violators were detained by the police and a fine of 10 sen[8] was imposed. The Meiji Penal Code in 1882 (Meiji 15) did not prohibit cross-dressing, yet the police continued to consider it as criminal behavior.[9] Further, from the latter half of the Meiji era, articles about transvestites increased in newspapers, and presented most transvestites as criminals.[10] In fact, nearly ten articles about transvestites in a criminal context appeared in The Asahi Shimbun (morning edition in Tokyo) in the decade before Himitsu’s publication. For example, in the October 22, 1901 edition we read, “Bandit Transvestite is Arrested”, in the October 4, 1906 “Transvestite Burglar”, in the January 27, 1911 “Transvestite Robber”. In 1909, a photo of a man dressed as a woman who committed suicide by jumping from the twelve-storey Ryounkaku Tower 凌雲閣, Japan’s first skyscraper, in Asakusa was published.

Against this social context, the protagonist of Himitsu, dresses as a woman, goes out with a dagger and opiates in his sash and enjoys the romantic thrill of crime without actually committing one. He feels a greater thrill than just that of cross-dressing by also imagining himself as a criminal in the world of early twentieth-century Tokyo in which the government sought to eradicate cross-dressing.

The protagonist’s experimentation with his appearance begins with hiding half of his face, putting nail polish on his toenails, and wearing colored glasses. He also tries wearing a fake beard and a fake mole, and using makeup to paint a fake bruise on his face. One day, when he sees a woman's kimono at an old clothes shop, he feels a strong desire to wear it. Every time he sees or touches a beautiful silk kimono, he always wants to embrace it for no clear reason and feels extreme pleasure as if looking at the skin of a lover. He imagines how pleasant it would be to wrap his body in the kimono and cannot resist the thrill of doing so. Here, the kimono is reminiscent of human skin. Some of the language used, such as “freshly falling down” [だらりと生々しく下つて居る] or “moist, heavy and cold cloth” [あのしつとりした、重い冷たい布], talks about the kimono in a similar way to how one might talk about skin, and he feels sensations in the same way as if he is touching skin. It is my contention that the protagonist’s exploration of cross-dressing is more to do with a desire for these kinds of tactile sensations that kimono allows women to experience than a desire to change his sex or identity. It is because his cross-dressing is not induced by such feminine elements as a pedicure or an attached mole, but imaginary body sensation aroused by a kimono. He desires ardently to walk the streets in the appearance of a woman in the kimono.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the protagonist buys the kimono along with a necessary undergarment and a short overgarment. At night, in a quiet room that the protagonist rents in a temple, while enjoying the sensation on his skin when cool sweet-scented dew penetrates into his pores, he puts on women’s makeup. In the process he discovers the art of makeup, through which actors, geisha, and ordinary women use their bodies as canvases (for artistic expression). This is much more interesting to him than the art of literary artists and painters. After putting on makeup and wearing a kimono, a wig and a traditional-style woman's hood, he goes to downtown Asakusa. When he feels his kimono and sash tightening around his body, it feels to him that the blood in his body is female, and that his masculine mood and posture are gradually disappearing.[11]

Here Tanizaki is showing how clothing determines the way human beings feel. The sensation of the kimono on the skin transforms the protagonist’s body into that of a woman. The relationship between the body and clothes is not a simple relationship between what wraps or covers and what is wrapped or covered, but a living relationship where each changes the other.[12] The point of contact between the clothing and body is the skin, and the interaction between them is the sensation experienced by the skin.

The theme of tactile sensation is not unique to Himitsu. Tanizaki's novels are full of explorations of physical sensations. A further example occurs in Shonen-no-Kioku (“Boy's Memory”)「少年の記憶」(1913). The protagonist in this story tries to lick smooth konnyaku, a gelatinous food made from the starch of the devil’s-tongue plant, and finds that among the things that humans like to eat, there are those items where the greatest pleasures are derived from taste or flavor and those where tactile pleasures (textures) are the most important. In another story, Zou-nen (Hatred)「憎念」(1914), the protagonist bullies another character because it is a pleasure to see his fat body wobbling like konnyaku shakes. In a further example, Yanagiyu-no-Jiken (Murder in Yanagi Public Bath”)「柳湯の事件」, 1918, a young painter accidentally kills a person in a public bath after he becomes overwhelmed in a paroxysm of excitement when touching his victim’s slimy body. This theme of sensations, including the texture of food and skin, is common to all of these stories. Citing Shisei as an example, Atsushi Tanikawa writes that Tanizaki is a writer fascinated by skin sensation.[13] Tanikawa claims that skin is an important metaphor that connects the act of tattooing with the act of writing novels, pointing out the parallel relationship between the act of tattooing to raise a picture on the skin and the act of making the story appear in black letters on a white sheet.[14]

What is important to all these works is the idea that changes in skin sensation change self-awareness, which in turn changes the way people perceive and interact with the world. In Shisei, the tattoo is drawn onto the skin of a woman, and the woman is changed, not only her physical body, but her identity.[15] She becomes a confident, predatory femme fatal. Similarly, in Himitsu, the protagonist discovers new bodily sensations by dressing up in a kimono and putting on makeup. At first, his interest in the kimono is merely from a desire to experience a new physical sensation. However, through this experience, his identity is fundamentally changed. A key theme of the novel is the relationship between gender-specific clothing and different physical sensations. Tactile sensation and perception are linked. In the next section, I consider the nature of this relationship.



In front of Tokiwa Theater 常盤座 in Asakusa, the protagonist of Himitsu, noticing his reflection in a big mirror at the entrance to a photo shop at the end of the street, discovers that he has been transformed into a splendid woman. By seeing himself in the mirror as a woman, he discovers a new version of himself and recognizes his existence as an external object. At this point, seeing himself as a woman, as well as being seen as a woman by others, his exploration of cross-dressing that started with the enjoyment of new skin sensations has progressed to his transformation into another identity. Under the costume and makeup, when he becomes a different person, hiding his true self, he experiences a dreamlike state between reality and his surface appearance. Furthermore, he finds joy as a woman in the admiring and envious gazes of others because of his elegant face and his ability to wear traditional clothing with elegance and style. When multiple eyes see this new version of the protagonist that has emerged, wearing kimono and makeup, his existence is observed from multiple viewpoints: first, he sees himself in a mirror as a woman at home; then, he sees himself in a mirror as a woman out in public; and finally, he is seen as a woman by others. Further, as his skill at cross-dressing improves, he begins to contemplate committing crimes.

   For the protagonist, cross-dressing is way to extend or diversify his existence without losing his basic identity. Comparing Tanizaki's exploration of self-splitting and the theme of doppelgängers with that of Akutagawa, Saburo Kawamoto says that for Akutagawa self-splitting meant that one was subdivided into one-half and one-fourth until one disappears, but for Tanizaki self-splitting meant expanding from one to two to four, so it is a deliberate self-division in pursuit of pleasure.[16] In short, for Akutagawa, this experience was a negative one, whereas for Tanizaki, it was positive. Such a positive understanding of self-splitting has already appeared in Himitsu. The cross-dressing that began with the exploration of tactile sensation turns into visual play when the protagonist discovers a new version of himself. And it was visual perceptions, or different gazes, that facilitated this transformation. This change, which the protagonist initially enjoys alone, ends when he meets Ms T in a movie theater called Sanyu-kan.

Dressed as a woman, the protagonist goes up to the most expensive seats on the second floor of Sanyu-kan and feels good about being seen by everyone. He feels pride that there are a lot of men looking with interest at his traditional clothing and women looking envious of how stylishly he is able to wear it. He thinks there is no other woman who is more sexy, beautiful, or attractive than himself. He feels a sense of superiority as a woman over other women. There are a variety of different gazes upon the protagonist. He is seen as a woman by the other women, by the men, and he sees himself simultaneously as a man and also as a separate woman. What began merely as an exploration of the physical sensation of women’s clothing has led to a liberating exploration of the different ways the protagonist can be perceived: by himself as a woman from a male point of view, and as a woman from a female point of view, by himself as a woman from the point of view of others, both men and women. However, when Ms T arrives, she takes all of this attention away from him.

   In contrast to his traditional clothing, Ms T wears a light blue cloak and has white teeth and big black eyes. Her facial expression changes freely and regularly. Everyone's eyes are drawn to her beauty, and the protagonist feels ugly and shallow in comparison. Hirokazu Toeda points out that the protagonist is dressed in an old-fashioned kimono, reminiscent of a male Kabuki actor playing a female role, and so loses out to the modern beauty of Ms T, who is reminiscent of a modern movie actress.[17] At that time, the tradition of a male actors playing women on the stage continued in new dramas, and there was a big debate over whether actresses were needed. Tanizaki was enthusiastic about movies from when they first appeared in Japan. He himself was involved in the production of four films around 1920. He said in an essay that Japanese movie actors should be separated from theatrical actors[18] and so had clear ideas about how movies should be styled, and seems to apply this to the appearance of Ms T. The colorful, well-defined, three-dimensional and dynamic appearance that Ms T embodies was seen as more beautiful than the old Kabuki style of white, flat makeup and dull colored kimono that is embodied in the protagonist’s outfit. This new aesthetic was being nurtured among urban people at the time. People’s notions of beauty were changing because of the introduction of the modern western way of life and thought, particularly through movies.

   A movie theater was a place where people had the experience of watching movies and so could experience this aesthetic. With the opening of the Denki-kan in 1903, movies became more widespread and accessible as a form of entertainment. The number of movie theaters increased year by year. Movies presented images from angles and distances that were different from people’s everyday visual experience. These alternative perspectives could pull people away from the real world and lead to illusions. One could not be sure if what one was looking at was a dream or reality. Tanizaki was deeply interested in the illusions made possible by the movie format. Ms T sits next to the protagonist without him knowing. When the lights come on, he suddenly finds her there.[19] This is reminiscent of the changing scenes of a movie.

   It wasn't just the screen that people saw at the cinema. Aside from being a place to watch movies , the cinema was a place where people could see and be seen by others. In modern French novels, private spaces such as windows and balconies, events such as dance parties and night parties, and public spaces such as theaters and opera were used as devices to present women as seen and desired.[20] In Japan, where Western social life was introduced beginning with the opening of the Rokumei-kan 鹿鳴館dancehall, such a device cannot simply be compared to French novels, but in movie theaters in Himitsu a similar phenomenon is occurring. The line of sight (gaze) is directed not only from men to women, but also from women to women and from women to men. The movie theater was a place where people could see others and be seen by others; in other words, it was a place where people could experience being both a subject and an object.

In this place, the protagonist admits his complete defeat, examining himself as a woman in relation to Ms T. Once again, he is also perceiving her from both the perspective of a man dressed up as a woman and as a man. He loses to Ms T in a further sense: in addition to being defeated as a woman, in that Ms T takes away the gaze of others from him, she also immediately recognizes him as her (male) former lover. This defeat forces him to become the subject who sees others. He returns to being a man. In other words, he is back where he started.

Comparing the protagonist’s encounter with Ms T to hide-and-seek, Yoichi Komori says a city is a game space in which hide-and-seek between people is indefinitely connected.[21] This means that the protagonist’s playful experiment with cross-dressing turns into a new game in competition with Ms T, who immediately sees through his disguise. She recognizes him as a person with similar qualities. They are both perceptive people, and enjoy experimenting with disguising themselves. Since they are of the same nature, they can understand the implicit rules of the new game they are playing with each other. This is why the protagonist accepts being blindfolded when Ms T takes him to her home. This journey also introduces a new element to the game: cities. The town where Ms T lives is familiar to the protagonist since childhood. Nonetheless, changing the path, entering the back street or going there at night changes his perception of what was once familiar, and create mysteries and secrets. At that time, the city, like a cross-dressing woman, hides its original form and invites him to the game of hiding and finding reality.



At the beginning of the story, the protagonist hides in the back streets of Asakusa because he thinks that this is a place in Tokyo that is unseen and mysteriously lonely. He finds the atmosphere in the back of the temples and shrines he used to visit, and the back streets he had never been so appealing. He remembers that as a child he was fascinated by the mysterious secret atmosphere of hide-and-seek and treasure hunting he took part in in a dark storage room at night. By looking from different viewpoints and visiting at different times, one can see mysteries and secrets that were not visible at first glance. Each day is different and seems to hide secrets.

On the way to Ms T's house, blindfolded, the protagonist experiences turning right and left down paths and alleys as if he is roaming through a labyrinth. This labyrinth is made up of the roads leading to the hidden places deep inside the city described at the beginning of the story as quiet corners that are rarely traveled unless it is a special case or by a special person. Ms T's house is located in the back of an alley that they arrive at by rickshaw and so is also a hidden place in the depths of the labyrinth. These hidden places constitute a different world inside the city, a place outside of time and space.

     The protagonist hides in the Shingon 真言sect temple, which is closely associated with secrets, magic and curses, and becomes absorbed in reading foreign books such as The Sign of Four by Conan Doyle, Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts by De Quincy, One Thousand and One Nights, and mysterious French sexology books. Through these books, he once again looks at the dusty corners and the complex back streets of Asakusa and finds a new attraction in them. Daisuke Nishihara points out that Tanizaki learned about European Orientalism from Kafu Nagai永井荷風 (1879-1959), and applied this knowledge to his works in India, China, and Japan.[22] Nagai lived in America and France from 1903 (Meiji 36) to 1908 (Meiji 41), and published his experience there as Amerika Monogatari (American Stories)「あめりか物語」 in 1908 and Furansu Monogatari (French Stories)「ふらんす物語」 in 1909. Nagai also loved the scene and atmosphere of the old Tokyo downtown. Through these, Tanizaki discovered a new role for the alleys that extend behind the downtown area, as he saw them as hiding secrets and different perspectives.

Nagai roamed the streets of downtown Tokyo, mourning the dying atmosphere of Edo, which was being destroyed by the urban remodeling and innovations from the late Meiji period to the beginning of the Taisho period as the city was modernized. These included introducing infrastructure such as water and sewage systems, electricity, and streetcars. Nagai walked around the disappearing alleys with nostalgia and feelings of emptiness. However, while Tanizaki was similarly drawn to alleys, his understanding of them is completely different from Nagai’s. Rather than feeling sorrow for what has been lost, the main character, in Himitsu, enjoys the alleys as a mechanism for creating mysteries and secrets. He enjoys the alleys like haunted houses and mazes, as devices that lead to different worlds. In other words, he sees the alleys not merely as streets but as having a new use: forming a labyrinth that hides secrets in its depths.

This theme of the multi-layered depths of the alleys is also related to the modernization of Tokyo. The protagonist says that, when he was a child, he thought of Hachiman Shrine, which he often visited, as a panoramic picture with just a front and no back. Panorama attractions became extremely popular after the introduction of the first one in Ueno in 1890 (Meiji 23), the same year Ryounkaku Tower was built. After Ueno, another panorama was also constructed in Asakusa. The Asakusa panorama, however, closed in 1909 (Meiji 42) due to the popularity of movies, and it no longer existed when Himitsu was published. The late Meiji period was a time when people's way of looking at and understanding things changed greatly. People were exposed to the panoramic viewpoint that only viewed scenes from the front and from a central fixed point. Then, from the middle of the Meiji era, architects who studied Western architecture, such as Kingo Tatsuno, built more and more two or three-story buildings made of bricks and stone. Tokyo was gradually becoming three-dimensional. From a high place overlooking the city it could be noticed that there were areas in shadow that was hidden from view. As the city became three-dimensional, the conventional flat cityscape could be seen as a great expanse with hidden depths.

   It was not only urbanization that changed the perspectives from which people viewed things, but also new optical equipment from the West, such as that used in the production of movies. Movies showed people various new and different perspectives from which to view things, such as looking at people and sceneries existing only on screen that were not actually there, and looking at objects from multiple directions by using different camera angles. As a result, people began to realize that what they saw from the front and what they saw from the back were different; and, further, that there were complicated mechanisms and processes hidden behind what they saw. The protagonist’s new understanding of the alleys as a labyrinth shows that the way of seeing the urban structure was changing from a flat scene without depth into a three-dimensional and multi-layered cityscape. These changes in the way of viewing things echo the change in the aesthetic of Ms T, in contrast to the protagonist’s traditional flat white makeup.

   Looking into the depths and peeling off the multiple layers that hide a secret, the protagonist finds an empty space. In the end, what he discovers is poor cityscapes lit by the autumn sunshine, and Ms T, revealed to be a widow named Yoshino, who is a different person from the one he met in the theatre and on their secret dates. The journey through the city from the protagonist’s home in Matsuba-cho to Ms T’s house in Ningyo-cho corresponds to his transformation through cross-dressing to his explorations of his identity. Finally, the secrets and mysteries fall away, revealing an empty reality in the depths of the city.

When these hidden places are revealed, the protagonist, who shares similar characteristics with Ms T, cannot help feeling empty when he faces her. He looks at the emptiness of the woman named Yoshino. She looks at his emptiness, and, at the same time, he looks at his own emptiness. Ms T's house is in a corner of Ningyo-cho, where the protagonist was also born and raised. Encountering the true identity of this woman living near his birthplace leaves him facing a raw version of himself who has sobered up from a fantasy. At this point, his playful exploration of cross-dressing, the mysterious woman, and the other mysteries of the city come to an end. He goes back to the beginning. He is then compelled to search for something else to distract him from reality that does not rely on secrets and mysteries. He moves to another area of the city to begin this search.



Before modernism was recognized as a well-defined artistic development beginning after the Great Kanto earthquake, Tanizaki sensed it in its early stages with a sharp sensibility, and sought to express the emergence and appearance of these new cultural trends and changes in people's consciousness in his stories. Growing up in the remnants of Edo and having a good command of English, he was sensitive to overseas trends. He developed a new way of looking at things and incorporated them into the familiar space of Tokyo.

   The protagonist of Himitsu undertakes his exploration of cross-dressing against the background of the tradition of Kabuki and transvestite criminals. It starts from a euphoric fascination with new skin sensations, which then goes on to influence his behavior. Finally, he is able to enjoy existing as a woman while maintaining his male identity. A new way to perceive tactile sensation reveals his body as something that is felt, can be explored, discovered, and looked at as an object. This is made possible by his cross-dressing. Further, this possibility to see things differently overlaps with his experience of a city that looks different from everyday life. The protagonist comes up short in comparison to the beauty of Ms T. He then is taken blindfolded to Ms T’s house in a downtown alley that was familiar to him to enjoy another secret with Ms T. However, he is not able to resist the temptation to look. Ms T’s and the city’s secrets disappear just when he looks at them. Himitsu is a story where gazes intersect and confront each other. While the gaze facilitates secrets, such as an alternative understanding of identity and a dream-like woman, it also uncovers secrets. Ms T's gaze sees through the protagonist’s cross-dressing, and his gaze reveals her true self and the true nature of the city. During this transitional period in Japanese society, Himitsu explores the connections between body, gaze, and urban landscape in the collective consciousness of the population who were experiencing urbanization, especially in Asakusa, where tradition met the latest cultural developments.

In Himitsu, Tanizaki further develops the elements of skin and sight which appeared in Shisei, and adds the theme of the city, a theme seldom broached in earlier Japanese literature. The city is depicted as a maze that attracts the protagonist or a playground where the game develops, rather than as having historical and cultural traditions. In an era where old Japanese traditions and new Western cultures are mixed, with the visual transition of values about what is beautiful and what is preferable, Tanizaki consolidates aspects of Japanese modernism, its charm and elusiveness in a novel way combining skin, body and the city. It can be compared to a dreamy image projected on the screen and the emptiness of the screen after it disappears. These are the reasons why I regard Himitsu as the starting point of Japanese modernism.[23]


[1] Japanese to English translation by author, same as below.

Tanizaki, Jun’ichiro. “Sasameyuki kaiko.” In vol. 20 of Tanizaki Jun’ichiro zenshu, Chuokoron-shinsha, 2015, pp.588 (谷崎潤一郎『谷崎潤一郎全集 第二十巻』(中央公論新社、2015年 以後全集と略す) 588)

[2] Some of the main works are Konjiki no shi(Golden Death)「金色の死」in 1914, Majutsu shi(The Magician)「魔術師」in 1917, Jinmen so(The Tumor with a Human Face)「人面疽」in 1918, Hakuchu kigo(Daytime Demon Stories)「白昼鬼語」in 1918, Tojo(Half-way)「途上」in 1920.

[3] Unno, Hiroshi. Modan toshi Tokyo: Nihon no 1920 nendai. Chuokoronsha, 1983, pp.10-11 (海野弘『モダン都市東京日本の一九二〇年代』(中央公論社、1983) 1011)

[4] Yoshimi, Shunya. Toshi no doramaturugi: Tokyo, sakari-ba no shakai-shi. Kobundo, 1987, pp.242 (吉見俊哉『都市のドラマトゥルギー 東京・盛り場の社会史』(弘文堂、1987) 242)

[5] All Japanese citations of Himitsu in this paper are based on Tanizaki, Jun’ichiro. “Himitsu.” In vol. 1 of Tanizaki Jun’ichiro zenshu, Chuokoron-shinsha, 2015 (谷崎潤一郎『谷崎潤一郎全集 第一巻』)

[6] Saeki, Junko. “Joso to danso” no bunkashi. Kodansha, 2009, pp.22 (佐伯順子『「女装と男装」の文化史』(講談社、2009年)22)

[7] Mitsuhashi, Junko. Joso to nihonjin. Kodansha, 2008, pp.129-130 (三橋順子『女装と日本人』(講談社、2008年)129130)

[8] 10 sen was about half the daily wage of a day laborer.

[9] Ibid., pp.142

[10] Ibid., pp.144-145

[11]「私の体の血管には、自然と女のやうな血が流れ始め、男らしい気分や姿勢はだんだんとなくなつて行くやうであった。」”As female blood began to flow in my veins gradually my masculine feelings and attitude seemed to start evaporating.”

[12] Washida, Kiyokazu. “Ishiki no hifu: Fasshon to shintai.” In Modo to Shintai: Fasshon-bunka   no rekishi to genzai, edited by Narumi, Hiroshi. Kadokawa-gakugei-shuppan, 2003, pp.37- 38 (鷲田清一「意識の皮膚 ファッションと身体」(成実弘至編『モードと身体 ファッション文化の歴史と現在』所収、角川学芸出版、2003) 3738)

[13] Tanikawa, Atsushi. Bungaku no hifu: Homo esutetikusu. Hakusuisha, 1997, pp.25 (谷川渥『文学の皮膚 ホモ・エステティクス』(白水社、1997) 25)

[14] Ibid., pp.3

[15] Skin is also a major theme in Shisei. In addition, body and gaze interact, not only when the tattooist looks at the woman's legs, but also when she takes on the nature of Dakki, a cruel Chinese princess, in a picture in the tatooist’s studio.

[16] Kawamoto, Saburo. Taisho genei. Iwanami-shoten, 2008, pp.147 (川本三郎『大正幻影』(2008年、岩波書店)147)

[17] Toeda, Hirokazu. “Modan toshi no eigakan.” In vol. 19 of Korekushon, Modan toshi bunka: Eigakan, edited by, Toeda, Hirokazu. Yumani-shobo, 2006, pp.913 (十重田裕一「モダン都市の映画館」(藤本寿彦編『コレクション・モダン都市文化19 映画館』所収、ゆまに書房、2006) 913)

[18] Tanizaki, Jun’ichiro. “Nihon no katsudo shashin.” In vol. 9 of Tanizaki Jun’ichiro zenshu, Chuokoron-shinsha, 2017, pp.401 (全集、第九巻、401)

[19] 始めは誰も居なかつた筈の貴賓席の私の側の椅子が、いつの間に塞がつたのか能くは知らないが、二三度目に再び電燈がともされた時、私の左隣りに二人の男女が腰をかけて居るのに気が附いた。”At first, no one should have been in the seat next to my reserved one, but, before I knew it, as the lights flashed on and off two or three times, to my left, I noticed a man and a woman sit down.”

[20] Ogura, Kousei. Shintai no bunkashi, Chuokoron-shinsha, 2006, pp.33 (小倉孝誠『身体の文化史』(中央公論新社、2006年)33)

[21] Komori, Yoichi. “Toshi no nakano shintai, shintai no nakano toshi.” In vol. 18 of Nihon bungaku kenkyu shiryo shinshu: Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, monogatari no hoho, edited by, Chiba, Shunji. Yuseido- shuppan, 1990, pp.47 (小森陽一「都市の中の身体/身体の中の都市」(千葉俊二編『日本文学研究資料新集18 谷崎潤一郎・物語の方法』所収、1990年、有精堂出版)47)

[22] Nishihara, Daisuke. Tanizaki Jun’ichiro to Orientarizumu. Chuokoron-shinsha, 2003, pp.80-91 (西原大輔『谷崎潤一郎とオリエンタリズム』(中央公論新社、2003年)8091)

[23] I thank Danny Robinson and Ryan Stasey Johnson for their help in editing this article.









Metro Lines: Ezra Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro’ and Its Impact on Contemporary Japanese Senryū

Andrew Houwen and Taira Sosei



onna sumu mune ni chikatetsu burasagete

in a heart filled with women a metro line dangling

(Aota Senryū, translated by Taira Sōsei and Andrew Houwen)


This senryū was composed by Aota Senryū (1928-2018), who at that time wrote under the gō (artistic or literary name) Aota Embi. It was first published in the 31 May 1995 issue of Senryū, the most prestigious magazine dedicated to Japanese senryū poetry. In 2017, he inherited the literary name ‘Senryū,’ the sixteenth to do so in a line of succession going back to the founder of this genre, Karai Senryū (1718-90). 

It was common in Japanese art and literature for such  to be passed down from master to pupil. A famous example is the ukiyoe artist Hiroshige. In contemporary poetry, however, senryū is the only form still to continue this tradition. The sixteenth Senryū, hereafter named Aota for the sake of avoiding confusion even though writers and artists with such  are normally referred to by these rather than their family names, was therefore a highly distinguished contemporary Japanese poet.

            In this senryū, onna can be interpreted as either ‘a woman’ or ‘women’; Japanese often makes no distinction between the singular and the plural. The translation’s choice of a plural is based on an understanding of the context of Aota’s life and other work and that of Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro,’ to which this senryū alludes. More literally, sumu means ‘to live,’ so that the phrase might be read as ‘a heart where women live,’ but this would sound unnatural in a way that Aota’s does not in Japanese. 

The word translated here as ‘heart,’ mune, can also mean ‘chest’ or ‘breast,’ in both a literal and figurative sense as used to be the case in English as well, though this would now sound unduly archaic in English. The particle ni corresponds to the translation’s preposition ‘in.’ Chikatetsu is the word generally used for ‘metro’ in Japanese translations of ‘In a Station of the Metro.’ 

Burasagete can also mean ‘hanging down’ and suggests a loosely swaying movement that might at first seem counter-intuitive for a ‘metro line,’ but Aota’s work frequently employs such surrealist-inspired imagery. The word choice, as unusual in Japanese as it is in English, could suggest some kind of disappointment or catastrophe. In Japanese, senryū, like haiku and tanka, are usually printed vertically in one line down the page, so that this senryū also appears to pun on its visual layout.

            A well-known literary scholar of senryū, Dr Taira Tatsuhiko, who also writes senryū under the literary name Sōsei, is a regular contributor to the magazine Senryū, and has edited an anthology of women’s senryū, Ryōran josei senryū (‘Profusions: Women’s Senryū,’ 1995) and, more recently, a selection of Aota’s senryū, Ushi no mandorin (‘The Cows’ Mandolins,’ 2018), kindly agreed to discuss this senryū and its Poundian inspirations in an interview I conducted with him in Japanese on 25 July 2019. His responses demonstrate the hitherto underexplored extent to which Pound’s ‘hokku-like sentence’ has influenced contemporary Japanese poetry.

Andrew Houwen:Before discussing the Japanese senryū poem that was influenced by Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro,’ perhaps we should start by considering what a senryū is. What is a senryū, and how is it different from haiku?  

Taira Sōsei: A senryū is a popular ‘epigram’ that arose in Edo in the mid-eighteenth century. It’s a one-line poem in seventeen syllables without a season word that employs colloquial language. A haiku, by contrast, is a poem written in more literary language that expresses the movements of the seasons by using kigo (‘season words’) and kireji (‘cutting words’).

          It takes a fragment of ordinary people’s lives and interprets it from a witty or humorous perspective. Through this wit or humour it satirises society and is thus a satirical form of poetry.

          The term ‘senryū’ literally means ‘river willow’ and derives from the literary name of a tenja (a judge of maekuzuke, a linked-verse sequence in which verses are added, zuke, to a ‘previous verse,’ a maeku) named Karai Hachiemon (1718-90) who was based at the Tendai Buddhist temple of Ryūhōji in Asakusa, a part of Edo (present-day Tokyo). Soon his zappai, as they were then called, became a prized popular art form and zappai maekuzuke, distinct from haikai maekuzuke, became fashionable in Edo. 

            On 25 August 1757, Senryū’s reading of Senryū hyō man ku awase (‘Senryū’s Collection of Ten Thousand Verses’) was first given. At that time, verses chosen by him were called Senryū ten (‘Senryū’s choice’), later abbreviated to ‘senryū.’ His adopted literary name has been passed down to this day. In 1765, the verses Senryū selected for his reading were published under the title Haifū yanagidaru (‘The Willow Barrel of Poetic and Ironic Verses’). Even when they were maeku, they were supposed to be ‘easy to understand as a standalone verse.’ In this first edition, the following senryū appears:


nete ite mo uchiwa no ugoku oyagokoro

            even as she sleeps, it keeps moving the fan – a parent’s heart

This senryū describes how a mother sleeping next to the child she is nursing, exhausted from her chores, falls asleep but the fan keeps moving. In this verse, the writer strongly felt the ‘parent’s heart.’ Within the one-line form of this traditional senryū, there is a question and response. What ‘keeps moving the fan,’ ‘even when asleep,’ is the question given to the reader. The answer is ‘a parent’s heart.’ This kind of structure is called isshō ni mondō (‘a question and an answer in one verse’). It is thought that this separates the senryū from the maeku and allows it to stand as an independent, one-line poem.

            By using this isshō ni mondō structure, even without the ‘cutting word’ of a haiku, two elements – a question and an answer – can be brought together to form a relationship between them. It is senryū with this kind of structure, like haiku and like Pound’s ‘super-position,’ that the sixteenth Senryū, Aota Senryū, used so that he could create contemporary ‘Imagist’ senryū.

            After Karai Senryū’s death, the literary name was inherited for the first three generations by his blood descendants, but in 1824 one of the second Senryū’s disciples, Hitomi Shūsuke (1778-1844), became the fourth Senryū. In his Haifū kyōku ganso (‘The Inventors of Rhetorical and Comic Mad Verses’), the fourth Senryū renamed the poetic form kyōku (‘mad verses’) to distinguish it from hokku (‘starting verses’) and popularised the writing of kyōku through his many adherents. The sixth Senryū, Mizutani Senryū (1814-82), was the first to live into the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

AH: We know about the modernising reforms of haiku and tanka by Masaoka Shiki in the late nineteenth century. What about senryū? How did it develop after the reopening of Japan to the West at that time?

TS: After the period during which the fourth Senryū popularised the term kyōku for what are today called senryū, the period of ‘modern senryū’ was instigated by Inoue Kenkabō (1870-1934) and Sakai Kuraki (1869-1945). The senryū reforms occurred after Masaoka Shiki’s (1867-1902) of hokku and waka in the 1890s. 

            Although the term ‘senryū’ for what was until then more generally known as a kyōku was used by Shiki in comparison with haiku, its widespread adoption as the term for this poetic form arose in around 1903. In that year, an article on ‘The Origins of Maeku’ by Nakane Kōtei in the magazine Bungeikai (‘The Art World’) gave the first published historical overview of senryū until then and became an important theoretical foundation for new senryū. 

            In the same year, Sakai Kuraki brought out Senryū kōgai (‘An Outline of Senryū’), which criticised the kyōku of the then current Senryū and advocated a return to the ‘old senryū’ of the eighteenth century. It demanded the reform of the genre with the slogan ‘return the debt of a century of kyōku.

            Kenkabō was aware of Shiki’s haiku and tanka reform movement and on 3 July 1903 began writing a column in the newspaper Nippon entitled ‘The New Willow Barrel.’ Two years later, he set up the Ryūsonji Senryū Society and founded the magazine Senryū, thus creating much enthusiasm for ‘new senryu.’ 

            In August 1919, Kenkabō published Senryū wo tsukuru hito ni (‘For the Senryū Writer’), which discussed senryū in a global literary context. He saw ‘new senryū’ as ‘a popular art form for the whole world.’ Furthermore, he emphasised that it ‘has to be shi’ (the term used at that time for Western poetry and as a broader category encompassing Western poetry, haiku, tanka, and other forms that had not been considered as a single literary genre until only a few decades before Kenkabō’s book), that it ‘has to live like the life that strikes our hearts,’ that it has to be ‘a poetry of ordinary people,’ and that ‘it has to be free verse.’ Kenkabō’s view of senryū was strongly influenced by the popular poet Walt Whitman, whose work was fashionable in the Japanese poetry world at that time. The year Kenkabō published Senryū wo tsukuru hito ni was also the centenary of Whitman’s birth, when Whitman’s poetry was at the height of a boom in Japan.

AH: What kind of poet was Aota Senryū? How major a figure was he in the world of senryū? What were the major influences on his work, and how would you characterise his approach to writing senryū?

TS: If we were to divide the senryū world broadly in two, senryū could be said to derive either from Sakai Kuraki’s ‘traditional senryū’ or Inoue Kenkabō’s ‘new senryū’ school. The Tokyo Senryū Association used to adhere to the ‘traditional school’ but ten years after the fourteenth Senryū, Negishi Senryū, inherited the Senryū name, the style underwent a significant change from the ‘Ryūfūkai style’ to a much more contemporary one. One of his disciples was Aota, who also changed from the ‘traditional senryū’ to the ‘new senryū’ approach. 

            Aota is a very modern senryū poet.  He is known in the senryū world as a writer of Imagist senryū that employ richly metaphorical expression and complex, concise surrealist imagery with distant imaginary leaps between the senryū’s constituent elements. He has been influenced by the Buddhist philosophy of the Lotus Sutra, surrealism’s spirit of artistic renewal, Negishi Senryū’s emphasis on ‘concision’ (gyōshuku) and distant imaginary leaps (hiyaku), Pound’s Imagism, and constructivist vectorism. Aota developed his own ‘senryū vectorism’ and composed contemporary Imagist senryū such as the one inspired by ‘In a Station of the Metro’ and the surrealism in his book of selected senryū published last year, Ushi no mandorin.

AH: Why do you think Aota became interested in Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro’? 

TS: Aota developed Negishi Senryū’s view that ‘senryū have speed and concision’ through his own ‘senryū vectorism.’ He also paid attention the isshō ni mondō structure of senryū. It is thought that he was interested in Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro’ because he wanted to create senryū that juxtaposed images in a one-line form using Pound’s method of ‘super-position.’

AH: Let’s look a little more closely at the poem. The ‘heart,’ mune, which is ‘filled with women,’ or more literally ‘where women live,’ appears to resemble Pound’s own description of his composition of the ‘Metro’ poem in his essay ‘Vorticism,’ particularly his seeing of one ‘beautiful woman’s face’ after another. In the context of its first publication as part of the ‘Contemporania’ sequence in Poetry, the feminine aspect of the ‘faces’ also seems to come through. Of course, Pound also had many women in his life. How would you interpret Aota’s choice of the ‘heart filled with women’ in his senryū?

TS: As you say, the various ‘women’s beautiful faces’ appear in Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro.’ The ghostly apparitions of such beautiful women’s faces also appear in Aota’s senryū. 

            In my essay in the most recent issue of Senryū, ‘Aota Senryū’s Senryū and Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,”’ which draws on your essay about Pound’s poem in this year’s Ezra Pound Review, I discuss how the poem expresses the ghostly apparitions of the women in Aota’s heart. I feel the ‘apparitions’ of Pound’s ‘In a Station of the Metro’ are wonderfully expressed in Aota’s ‘women.’ 

AH: After that part of the poem, the metro line is ‘dangling.’ This goes against our expectation, of course, that a metro line is more or less horizontal. Is Aota punning on the visual appearance of Japanese senryū on the printed page, which ‘dangle’ vertically down the page? Do you think there may be other reasons for his word choice?

TS: As you say, it is indeed possible to say that the ‘dangling’ metro line contains the senryū element of okashimi (‘wit’ or ‘humour’). But there are various other possible interpretations in this modern senryū.

            When I read this senryū, I thought of the development of Pound’s ‘super-position’ and Aota’s ‘senryū vectorism.’ In this modern senryū, the horizontality suggested by the ‘metro line’ and the verticality of its ‘dangling’ appear to intersect. It is in the space of their intersection, at the poem’s ‘heart,’ that the phantoms of the women the writer cannot forget appear for a moment reflected in the window of a metro train before vanishing again. That scene seems for me to come to mind.








Pound, Beatrice Hastings, and the New Age

Judith Hendra 


Ezra Pound’s “The Seafarer: freely translated from the Anglo-Saxon” appeared in the issue of the New Age for 30 November 1911. A sentence from 'The Editor' explained Pound’s intentions going forward: “Under this heading [‘I Gather the Limbs of Osiris’] Mr. Pound will contribute expositions and translations of the ‘New Method’ in scholarship.” Pound scholars assume “Editor” meant Alfred Richard Orage, the New Age’s founder. This is not the entire story for, while Orage and Pound had a long relationship extending beyond the New Age, “Editor” in 1911 was a collective noun made up of Orage as managing editor and Orage’s professional and personal partner Beatrice Hastings. Hastings was the paper’s official book editor and functioned unofficially as its literary editor. She wrote literary criticism, satires, parodies, poetry, fiction, and polemics under a bewildering number of pseudonyms and anonymously. Hastings made decisions about content, sometimes overruling Orage whose public persona (omniscient managing editor) masked the Orage whom Hastings once accused of “having ten men’s minds and not one of them his own” — in an anti-Orage polemic she published years after they broke up. However, during Pound’s early years at the paper they were solidly behind it and very much a couple in spite of a few civil wars. 

The contents for 30 November were a microcosm of the paper's progress since Orage took it over in 1907: Huntly Carter’s column about art, T.H. Hulme’s latest essay on Henri Bergson, and, fitting a socialist journal, a piece on David Lloyd George’s National Insurance Bill, while “Letters to the Editor” ran an entertaining back and forth supporting and reviling the latest  ‘Art Supplement’ — a reproduction of a Cubist drawing by Pablo Picasso. The mysterious T.K.L. was credited with a savage attack on the suffragettes (A Lysistratic). “He’ happened to be the unnamed author of that week’s ‘Present Day Criticism’, Beatrice Hastings. ‘We abjure the grey partisan. He is nothing but darkness unconfirmed,’ Hastings wrote. Her rambling, idiosyncratic column dealt with the degeneration of culture and included a warning to some hypothetical young persons in danger of being corrupted, citing “deadly premature display, mock public effort, imitation debate and lecturing…thrust…sapped but vain as peacocks, into some brief authority there again to be speeded up — and we are already gazing at the skeletons of some of them”: Advice to a hyperkinetic young American confronting the London literary scene after almost a year’s absence? 

Pound was firmly “in” by the waning months of 1911. He was surprised the offices were “two cells inside a printing press,” but that hardly mattered given the depth of talent at the paper. It’s likely he’d met Hastings and Orage socially before they met professionally; Pound’s personal list of “delightful people” included New Age writers Hulme, Richard Aldington, Allen Upward, Frank (F.S) Flint, Wyndham Lewis (who briefly wrote for the paper in 1911 and 1912), and a mutual acquaintance, the literary power broker Ford Madox Hueffer. Hastings pulled Frank Flint out of the slush pile in 1908 when Flint still wrote ‘verse,’ and for a while had him writing reviews. One was Flint's favorable review of Personae quoting in entirety ‘And Thus in Nineveh’ (F.S. Flint Personae N.A. 27 May 1909.) Once Flint became an apostate and talked about shedding “old devices” — regular metrical beat and rhyming — 'Beatrice Tina' Hastings asked him to explain his rules ever so slightly more explicitly. Was it permissible to write a sonnet? Flint followed Hastings' banter with, “Miss Tina could write what she wished and command attention,” explaining he liked free rhythm because it was spontaneous (F.S. Flint 'Scorn Not the Sonnet' Letter to the Editor 20 January 1910).

Flint flattered her — Hastings was an indifferent poet—unless it was comic verse in which case she shone. Hastings made up her own rules about language. She brashly turned nouns into adverbs (“fireworky”) and anglicized French verbs –they “agaced from start to finish, but not to set your teeth on edge,” from agacer, to irritate or excite. Targeting Pound in 1913, Hastings joyfully exploited her working knowledge of French. Simultaneously she ridiculed the movement towards simplified spelling and roistered John Masefield for descending into the vernacular in Nan. Practically no one was exempt, including the big establishment writers Arnold Bennett and H.G. Wells and promising newcomers (Hastings' examples of overrated writers included Rupert Brooke and Kenneth Grahame, especially Grahame). So Hastings may have surprised herself when she reacted favorably to “Seafarer.” “A poem, indeed!” she exhaled twenty-five years later looking back at Pound's debut in a 1936 publication The “Old” New Age, Orage and Others.

The essays were problematic, Hastings remembered. Pound's biographer A. David Moody describes the series: “a version of his Anglo- Saxon Seafarer; a translation of five of his translations of the sonnets and ballads of Guido Cavalcanti; translations of ten canzoni of Arnaut Daniel; ... and five prose articles, interspersed among the translations devoted to his exposition of his ‘New Method in Scholarship.’” (Ezra Pound: Poet vol.1, p. 170) Hastings didn't know if the readership would accept them. She remembered bringing samples to an editorial meeting. “They …were so idiosyncratic that I did not quite trust my own judgement, and I read them out, and everyone howled: however, I put them through.” ('Old' New Agep.10) Hastings' deliberate "I" indicated ownership and pointedly excluded Orage- as-editor. It would have been out of character for Orage to “howl”; colleagues remembered meetings where Orage listened and wrapped up by precisely analyzing what was wrong or right about the others' opinions. Hastings liked to say she tore up manuscripts rather than write rejection letters and lectured authors about grammar implying most submissions weren't worth the paper they were written on. She was also surprisingly generous and fiercely protective of colleagues she trusted. It was easy to see Hastings liked Pound. They shared the distinction of being outsiders; Hastings because she was a 'colonial', her family was British South African, and became she was the sole woman among the New Age's editors and contributors. She valued Pound's boisterous energy and inventiveness and was impressed in spite of herself by his knowledge. By laughing at him she also wanted him to know with her he couldn’t get away with any nonsense.

It took Hastings a few weeks to warm up to the possibilities of using Pound as a foil. She started in a minor key after week five of Pound's “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris” (28 December). Featuring translations of Daniel's canzoni, Pound used the expression “bully.”  ‘B. Hastings’ needled the author: “May I suggest that Mr. Pound’s translation of Daniel’s ‘Bona es vida pos joia la mante’ is really too feeble?  ‘Bully is living where joy can back it up’ — so Mr. Pound renders it. But ‘Bully is the breath-act where bliss can do the Atlas stunt’ is much more faithful to Daniel, so de-civilised as his line betrays him to have been.” A few weeks later she displayed an impressive knowledge of English traditional ballads in a “Present Day Criticism” (15 February 1912). 

Pound began a fourth series of essays in September 1913. He opened “The Approach to Paris” with a metaphor, Paris as a “great oasis of culture.” Drawing on his visit to Paris the previous April when he briefly met “a vortex of twenty men” gathered in the cellar of a local café, Pound enthusiastically imagined the intellectual heavyweights gathered around at Paul Fort’s table at the Cafe des Lilas. The New Age equivalent was the basement of an ABC teashop on High Holborn where the editors gathered on Mondays: 

Yet, these things are beyond my knowledge. I have never come into Paris. It may easily be held that my desire toward Paris is a morbidity. Yet I do not precisely admit a 'desire toward Paris.' There are just two things in the world, two great and interesting phenomena: the intellectual life of Paris and the curious teething promise of my own vast occidental nation.

Orage lectured him like an impatient father correcting an adolescent. Pound suffered from café elitism said Orage writing as ‘R.H.C.'  “I reserve my judgement until he has produced his evidence that any one of this mutually devoted band can write good French, let alone talk good sense” (“Readers and Writers,” 11 September 1913). Pound's follow-up letter gave R.H.C. a few hints and implied he'd have trouble proving his case (“The Approach to Paris,” 18 September). His second essay quoted lengthily from Remy de Gourmont’s Litanies de la rose. De Gourmont, Pound said, decisively knew more about poetic rhythm than any man living. 

Fleur hypocrite, 

Fleur du silence. 

Rose couleur de cuivre, plus frauduleuse que rose couleur de cuivre, embaume-nous dans tes mensonges, fleur hypocrite, fleur du silence.

Orage’s partner used a favorite pseudonym for T.K.L.’s “The Way Back to America” (18 September). “Attendez, mes enfants! I am about to waste ten minutes in exposition of the so-called English poets. What I have to say is brief, pardieu! They were all French!” Hastings’ ‘translation’ substituted ‘cow’ for ‘rose’:

Cow hypocrite,

Cow of pretence.

Cow colour of fawn, more fraudulent than our nags, cow 

colour of fawn, bedaubed with brush, walking lie, 

cow hypocrite, cow of pretence… 

…. My brother’s ineffable words mean anything you like, cows, roses, toads, dairymaids or queens-if you must have a meaning, but why have one?’ ... If we can only mix everything up and break every rule it will be much better “for the trade” n’est ce pas

Pound offered his congratulations: “T.K.L. has written an 'incomparable parody... M. De Gourmont may thank us, for now he is assured of immortality not only in his own tongue but in ours. I rejoice that I have been incidental to such one will deny T.K. L. the glory of having invoked and brought to the mental eye of the reader the vision of cows galore” (Letter to the Editor, “The Approach to Paris,” 25 September). Pound was a popular topic of conversation at the Orage-Hastings dinner table. “Readers and Writers” for 18 October complained Pound failed to show “either that our modern English writers are as good [as their French contemporaries] or that our classic English writers have anticipated their modern verse-forms and wave-lengths.”  Only if the latter were second or third rate, recalling Samuel Johnson decrying the vogue for ‘Pindarism’ in his Life of Cowley. Hastings found Orage's reference irresistible and wrote an elaborate satire, “The Clear Tongue Plus Pindarism,” mocking Pound's enthusiasm for Jules Romains (T.K.L. 25 September).   

T.K.L. was his most flamboyant. ‘Romains uses all rhythms; wherefore nothing is incongruous to him. See there the poet! Naturally, where a man dares employ what is his own, from hexameter to doggerel, he need not limit his subject. Romains achieves new epic. Pindar never got beyond ode.” Hastings followed with a pastiche of Romains' ‘Un Etre en marche.’  Pound called Romains' poem “possibly the nearest approach to true epic that we have had since the middle ages,” so Hastings stuffed her version with classical references. Pound delved into Romains' complex theories about collectives, “…groups…are not precisely born. Their life makes and unmakes itself, as an unstable state of matter” (“The Approach to Paris 111,” 18 September). Hastings smartly replied: “If you have ever been in a theosophical gathering you will have heard Romains ideas debated by eleven old ladies and two trousers. They got it all from Romains! Everybody is in a group except Romains and the debaters who are, as may be clear to you, highly conscious spectators. They seegroups. Everybody else is groups.”

Hastings reliably shadowed Pound as he enthusiastically introduced more French writers. Spoofing Pound's tone, Hastings asked if readers were ready for a “Prosie by Vildrac” (T.K.L., “Humanitism and the New Form,” 2 October). Pound quoted from four of Charles Vildrac's poems and made some rough translations explaining the poems' value was their non-poetic qualities. He defined poetic as the preference a man might have if he read Punch and liked “rhymes where he expects them” (“Approach to Paris IV” 25 September) Hastings picked up Pound's reference to the British everyman. Parodying Pound's translation of Visite Hastings introduces 'Mr. Jones'.' But suddenly I thought of Jones'. Jones becomes “the Joneses” and the Joneses' furniture, transforming Vildrac's enigmatic poem into a British domestic comedy. A week later T.K.L. purportedly speaking for readers classified Pound as an obscurantist. “Aristophanes or Tailharde?” asked T.K.L. Pound presented Laurent Tailharde as a satirist playing enjoyably with the “old authors.” “It's a pleasing and erudite irony such as should fill the creative artist with glee....' Hastings facetiously contradicted him and showed she had given the subject thought. “Pardonnez moi! I profess to see Monsieur Tailharde with eyes even more clear than his own. He resembles Aristophanes. Granted. But the Frenchman forgets to price his modernity...Tailharde bless us guzzles (he would approve the word) the rot of his nation. The Greek vomited to behold his” (T.K.L., “Aristophanes or Tailharde?” 9 October). 

Pound's final subject the poet and novelist Francis Jammes — the “most important writer in France,” inspired T.K.L.'s “All Except Everything” (16 October). “Readers, when I began these articles I had no notion there were so many Frenchmen and every second person a poet as in our 'chilly, but prolific, islands.’”  T.K.L. names the Pound pantheon: “Remy de Gourmont Imagiste; ViIdrac, Humaniste; Tailharde, Helleniste; Romains, Unanimiste, and others, each one in his own unique way bent upon clarifying poetic diction...” Jammes, T.K.L. pontificates, is the god of gods: “[he] has perfected the new perfection of being a man in the street; he is your very ordinary self, your office-boy, your office, your telephone, your insurance card, and your stamp!” T.K.L. invents 'Detailist'. Or is Jammes a Naturaliste, Mentionaliste, Normaliste, Conversationaliste, a Somethingaliste? Pound ended the series saying it was 'silly' to hope for an English equivalent to Jammes or Flaubert. Hastings took the challenge and produced a list of carefully chosen second-raters with whom she had run-ins at various times. Yeats was on the list because Hastings savaged one of his verse dramas:

In each case he [Jammes] gives us the Detail and abjures the Whole. You might think YOU were reading Mr. W. W. Gibson; just as in reading M. Tailharde, you think he is Mr. Aleister Crowley; M. Vildrac--Mr. Yeats; M. Romains--Mr. James Stephens; M. de Gourmont--Mr. Arthur Symons.

Hastings' high-octane spoofing had readers laughing and provided Pound with effective publicity Pound acknowledged when he congratulated her about “cows.” If he expected Hastings to end there, he underestimated Hastings wasn't about to let go of the opportunity to demonstrate her brilliance. Orage referred to T.K.L. in 'Readers and Writers' (23 October) as the 'brilliant light' that showed up Pound's misjudgments:  'As “T. K. L.” has shown in a series of critical parodies constituting a tour de force of amazing cleverness (where is Tailharde now?), Mr. Pound’s own English style is a pastiche of colloquy, slang, journalism and pedantry'. The paper’s resident cartoonist  ‘Tom Titt’ drew ‘Mr. Ezra Pound’ with hair standing up in long zigzagging strands as if Pound touched a live electric wire (9 October). Pound understood his managing editor meant to hurt him and drastically cut his submissions over the next fourteen months.

Hastings and Orage ended their personal relationship a few months later over Hastings' unfortunate affair with Wyndham Lewis --she decided she was in love while Lewis following his customary pattern with women got her into bed and quickly proceeded to the next casual affair. Hastings moved to Paris with an assignment to write a column. One of “Alice Morning’s” outings was an evening at Café des Lilas: “Saw the grand poets at La Closerie des Lilas and felt very distinguished.” She featured “Monsieur Paul Fort, who is amiable and wears pince-nez with a smile” inviting her to a dance. Hopefully, Hastings remembered Pound as she danced the evening away. She had a new lover, the sculptor and painter Amedeo Modigliani.

Pound didn't see war coming. Hastings had just returned from a visit to London where she saw Orage and may have seen Pound. She bravely decided not to leave Paris and spent some nail-biting weeks vividly covered in 'Impressions of Paris' waiting for the Germans to besiege the city. The immediate crisis over Alice Morning told readers in early November someone sent her a copy of The Egoist: “Good Lord! The ‘Egoist.’ Of all incongruities! Paris to-day and the ‘Egoist’ (“Impressions of Paris” 5 November 1914). She implied the “someone” was Pound who was working behind the scenes to promote James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Hastings had a run in with the founder Dora Marsden before the war and was looking for revenge. The Egoist happened to be serializing an English translation of Isidore Ducasse's novel Les Chants des Maladoror. Hastings seized the opportunity and spent a paragraph blasting the editors' choice: didn't they realize they were in the middle of a war and weren't they ashamed to showcase the teenage lunatic Ducasse?  The author used the pseudonym Comte de Lautreamont:

It still remains for Mr. Pound and the rest to select noble pseudonyms after the aspiring Ducasse but without that any of them might crib and sign "Maldoror" with no fear in the world of being detected. I should say that all that genre of æstheticism is over for France for a long time. Remember that practically all the men of France will have seen things beside which the little “strong school” fancies can no way compete!

Pound avoided writing about the war believing those who were not involved had no right to do so. A few weeks later Alice Morning featured Max Jacob’s La Cote. Hastings and the charming, enigmatic French poet had become close friends and in February the New Age published an ambitious selection of Jacob’s prose poems translated by Hastings, who waved her credit. Pound returned to the paper in the New Year with “Affirmations.” Orage was paying him and Pound needed the money. 

He opened his second essay with an obeisance. “The New Age permits one to express beliefs which are in direct opposition to those held by the editing staff” (“Affirmations II: Vorticism,” 14 January 1915). Pound's generous definition — Vorticism means one is interested in the creative faculty as opposed to the mimetic — allowed the writer to unify physics, the workings of the unconscious, musical composition, and the visual arts. Pound reminded readers a work of art in any medium offers satisfactions we may not find anywhere else. Ingratiatingly he wrote, “I simply say that certain sort of pleasure is available to anyone who wants it. It is one of the simple pleasures of those who have no money to spend on joy-rides and on suppers at the Ritz.” The next week Hastings 'almost was about to believe...that Mr. Ezra Pound was about to wake up,” until she read his conclusion: “only an affirmation that he is a hopeless cultish. Bless my heart, Vortices and the Quattrocento!” (“Impressions of Paris,” 21 January):

Why drag in physics? “Is it,” asks Mr. Pound, “that nature can, in fact, only produce a certain number of vortices? That the Quattrocento shines out because the vortices of power coincided with the vortices of creative energy?’’ It is all fiddling with terms; and creative energy is power. Were there no vortices in nature before the Quattrocento? Yes; and whirlpools, and surges, and Charybdis, and the wheel of Ixion, whereon was bound the poor diable who embraced a cloud thinking it was Juno.

Pound tried correcting her in a letter ('Vorticism' 28 January). He softened criticisms with compliments and conceded he needed to be more precise:

Miss Morning’s quibble over my use of the terms “power” and “creative energy” is unworthy of her voracious intellect. Had she read my article with that care which even my lightest utterance deserves, she would have been able most clearly to understand me. When Miss Morning confines herself to translating Max Jacob’s poems and to bringing unfamiliar matter before us, we are most grateful for her Parisian explorations...Miss Morning at least advances the discussion by forcing me to define one of my terms more exactly.

Hastings pretended she was speechless. It was hard on her not to reply, mocking “Mr. Pound,” “because he mends one of his rags and tatters with an air of forgiving me for having noticed...but one cannot remember things at this distance.” He was still a “Clusterist” not condescending to a hyphen (“Impressions” 11 February). Hastings may have been annoyed Pound mentioned Wyndham Lewis. After six months in Paris living with an artist, she felt she knew more about the subject of art than Pound. She quoted George Bernard Shaw questioning why sculptors who mastered Michelangelo's methods produced primitives. “The falsity of modern art is defined there!” Ironically, she had just told readers about an incident at the studio. Modigliani (unnamed) had thrown away a damaged sculpture Hastings coveted and the couple had a huge fight about Hastings' rescue operation. She said the head reminded her of Ecclesiastes, referring to the archaic quality of Modigliani’s work. Pound's generalization was "outside the Hellenic quasi-Renaissance tradition.” 

 Hastings brought the argument forward a second time. 'Impressions' for February 18 picked up from Pound's discussion the previous week and told Mr. Pound Vorticist sculptors practiced a craft but not an art. (Pound had specifically mentioned Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Jacob Epstein.)  Pound talked about “mass” and “form” said Hastings and made an unmistakable reference to Gaudier-Brzeska's “Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound” — what was the good when the subject's “skull is...twisted so as to oblige you to search for it underneath his shoulders”?  Hastings mused about the next stage: now the Vorticists “have got as far as to feeling lines and doubt they will be able presently to make intellectual works according to their natural limits”:

Their very talented warming-pan, Mr. Pound, will have the world all ready for them, and by the time they are able to surpass the artists of the past I suppose we shan’t mind much what Mr. Pound may do with the old masters. I think, however, that he might have got more “push” into his great announcement. Annotated au grand serieux it would go better--for instance, like this, though, of course, I myself am no authority on placing or comparing works of art.

Hastings managed a decent pastiche of art-speak about new form, masses, allegories, and the nature of the medium. The rest of  'Impressions' was a collection of discursive anecdotes and pre-twentieth century French literary references. The author caught flu' so this would be the last column for a while. Pound wanted Hastings to know they were still colleagues. Writing “The Non-existence of Ireland” (“Affirmations VII,” February 25), Pound singled out “Mr. Joyce and Mr. D.H. Lawrence” and added a footnote mentioning Hastings' South African “romance”, A Maids Comedy: “A critic, whom I respect, frequently quotes a pseudonymous romance — ‘The Maid’s Comedy’ [sic.] — which I have unfortunately never read.” Hastings admired Lawrence's early novels so presumably on the whole she was pleased. (She never said what she thought about Joyce and one suspects she found him irritating.) Pound's letter the same week complained about critics writing without considering the contents. He ended: “tout a vous /Heart of nature after seven weeks of it” and added a postscript (“Affirmations,” 25 November 1915):

P.S.-Does Miss Morning really think I shall do any harm to Titian at this date?

Does my writing lead her to think that I do not enjoy Memling and Clouet?

Does she find no difference between the direction of my propaganda and that of the destructionists?

Who most respects the masterwork of the past, one who battens upon it, cheapening or deadening its effect by a multitude of bad imitations, or one who strives toward new interpretations of life?  

The New Age for September 3 featured “Higgledy-Piggledies” by Ninon de Longclothes. Unlike the historic courtesan Ninon des Lenclos this Ninon had read Blast. Hastings begins her random satire of literary trends with Wells and Bennett, respectively a shopkeeper a sanitary inspector, before turning to Vorticism and clever references to Blast 2: The War Number, Helen Saunders' “A Vision of Mud” (“Hold my hand, darling. The vishun is going”), and T.S. Eliot's “Rhapsody of a Windy Night” and “Preludes.”  The final “Higgledy-Piggledy” spoofs Pound in eleven lines of inspired free verse. He is the Pound who legendarily ate the floral centerpiece at the Cheshire Cheese Pub in a happier time before the war and author of a memorable haiku. Hastings takes her template from Pound's deceptively straightforward 'The Social Order' from Blast 2

         The apparition of Ezra at the Party 

         To his right the curling sandwiches 

         And the fruits that are somehow matching him 

         The apparition of Ezra 

         Under the tree branches triangularly waving 

         A strawberry ice on his knee 

         (Is it innocent?) 

         (Mr. Pound, just give me over your idea

         And watch me eat it!) 

         Ezra at the Party, half friz, half nibble 

         Ezra talking Art.   

In 1920 Hastings lay in a hospital bed in Paris fighting to avoid undergoing a hysterectomy. Out of sight of the nursing staff she jotted down reactions to the other women in the ward and her occasional visitors. One jotting recorded Pound sent her “things.” The parcel contained a volume of Robert Browning’s poems. Hastings wrote, “Wow! Help! A few among my yells of disapproval… I do not consider Browning a Great Poet but he is worth more than...” remembering poets she atomized when she was writing for the New Age. She thought of turning over the subject to her loud-voiced ward companion Madame Neuf, “Me! I’ve had eight confinements, so I should think I am competent to….” Pound was in Paris the previous November and again in June. His gift suggests he saw Hastings though there is no record of them meeting. A mutual friend must have told him she was ill prompting Pound to send the Browning volume. Hastings first reaction was for the record and her second may have been to open the book and start reading. 

At the time Pound was writing two columns for the New Age, art and music, under the pseudonyms B.H. Dias and William Atheling. Hastings as Alice Morning wrote her last column published 3 March 1920, an elaborate précis of Jean Cocteau’s surreal ballet Le boeuf sur le toit. She saw Cocteau's latest at a local theater with a first half featuring Erik Satie and two composers in their twenties Francis Poulenc and Georges Auric playing new work. Pound thought Cocteau was a genius and probably finished reading Hastings' elaborate description of the afternoon feeling left out, although Alice Morning pretended she was in no way a Paris insider: “You probably know all these people much better than I do, but then I've confessed to never knowing anything.”  In fact once Pound moved to France he and Hastings may have crossed paths at the homes and studios of several mutual acquaintances, at Francis Picabia's afternoon soirees for instance, where Pound chatted with Cocteau and Marcel Duchamp, and Constantin Brancusi's "cavern" as Pound called the sculptor's studio. Hastings moved out of Paris in late 1923. She had no idea Orage was living at a farm in Fontainebleau-Avon with George Gurdjieff and his disciples. Pound had also moved, to Italy.  

Hastings moved back to London in 1931 and stayed in England for the rest of her life. For reasons including illness and social isolation she was mostly unhappy and frustrated. She was, however, writing: at first in direct competition with Orage, who had given up working for Gurdjieff and returned to England around the same time as Hastings. She knew of Orage's plans for The New English Weekly and squeezed in the first issue of The Straight-Thinker in January four months ahead of the NEW's debut in April (1932). The May issue of the Straight-Thinker acknowledged Hastings' self- published broadsheet had lost out. She wrote a virulent piece about the “New Tinker's Weekly” tearing the NEW apart: “'Tis the epitome of the worst of the past war period, a packet of greed and cowardice, treachery and snobbery, and the fashionable, fear-of-the-crisis sentimentality, which substitutes ritual and faith for investigation and works. This is the old No Wage…God amend us!” The No Wagers working for the NEW were “subtly opiumised.”  Orage buried Pound in the New Age and resurrected him for the NEW--why? “Dunno: unless some eloquent, resentful, patient scoundrel got up a boycott and tirelessly for all these ten years—helped by the pack ready to join any hunt—by hint, wink, innuendo and consenting silence has doubled and trebled those who thought they had a grievance against him.” She claimed Pound for Beatrice Hastings. “You once told a man that if Beatrice Hastings did not like a manuscript, she was liable to tear it up. Pound, that is the kind of, to me, almost incomprehensible canard which has deprived the critical fiend of a doughty sword.”

In June Hastings briefly featured Pound's book-length essay How to Read. She started the book “half asleep” and finished it feeling “fresh as paint.”  The subject of Pound's politics didn't appear to be an issue and wasn't even mentioned. In 1932 Hastings had given up on capitalism, “the cul de sac called Rent and Interest,” and proposed abolishing banks and returning to a pre-capitalist ethos — Hastings wanted a mass exodus from cities lest there should be “biological calamity.”  She thought Lenin had the right answers and implicitly distrusted Stalin. She barely mentioned Mussolini.“Altogether Pound was working towards the conclusion that Mussolini was, like Lenin and like Jefferson, a leader of the most effective type, ‘an opportunist with convictions..."' David Moody says in the second volume of his biography (p.101). Hastings struggled through eighteen months getting out issues when she could and told readers in December 1933 she had exhausted her resources and was suspending publication. Predictably it was the last issue. 

 Hastings hadn't quite finished with the subject of Orage and Pound. Orage died of a heart attack in November 1934. Hastings shocked their former colleagues by attacking the Orage legend in her invective pamphlet The "Old" New Age Under Orage. She claimed Pound was mistreated. Orage “scoffed at and belittled Pound in and out of season,” and she couldn’t understand why Pound insisted on praising his late editor. No one outside “literary Bedlam” did (“and for the nones, I put Pound inside it”). Hastings claimed, not entirely unjustly, she was “bricked up alive,” denied proper credit, and ultimately discarded. She chose to forget Pound was paid and, while she was right, Orage often didn't agree with Pound forgot her role as chief parodist. By 1935 Hastings' suspicions were aroused and she may have meant her odd final reference to “Literary Bedlam” as a rebuke to Pound's condoning Mussolini's pivot towards Hitler. It was the last time she mentioned him. She started another self-funded paper The Democrat after the Munich crisis in 1938 and published issues intermittently until 1943. Pound appeared to have forgotten her, or if he did think about her at all remembered her exclusively as part of his past. Maybe he had a few affectionate memories of her at the “old” New Age. He had no reason to know Hastings committed suicide by gas poisoning in 1943.