Editorial: ‘Renew thyself …’

Two years is a good while to endure the suspension of ‘normal life.’ Now parts of the world are coming out of various states of lockdown and border closures, and the structures of scholarly and creative life are taking more recognizable shape. How we return to normality – if we return to normality or indeed inhabit a new normality – brings with it the strange reckoning with the past: the two years of the pandemic, but also the upturned perception and memory of what life was like in the ‘before times.’ What do we jettison, and what do we retain? ‘What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee / What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage …’

I am fortunate to be writing this editorial in Oxford, having finally taken up a short fellowship intended for 2020 but only possible once I could escape ‘Fortress Australia’ a few weeks ago. The oddity of circulating with people in person again – live conferences, actually dining inside with strangers – has induced a combination of trepidation and a sense of futurity, and a working paradigm of ‘let’s see what happens …’ One happy event is the return of Make It New to its former quarterly publication schedule.

If this issue of Make It New (6.3) is any guide, there is a deep reservoir of pent up Poundian scholarly and creative work seeking the light of day. Timothy Billings, whose scholarly edition of Cathay was awarded the Ezra Pound Society Book Prize for 2018, responds to Andrew Houwen’s review of his book, and produces a fascinating account of a translator’s methods and choices (Andrew will respond to Timothy’s essay in the July issue, Make It New 6.4). Full reports of both the 2018 EPS Book Prize (Billings) and the 2019 Prize – James Dowthwaite’s Ezra Pound and 20th-Century Theories of Language – also appear, along with Ryan Johnson’s review of Dowthwaite’s book.

The 2022 MLA Convention occurred in hybrid format, with the Ezra Pound Society Panel conducted online and arranged on the theme of ‘Ezra Pound in Washington, D.C.’ The panel comprised four excellent papers by Chris Hall, Youngmin Kim, Alex Howard, and Marius Hentea, each of whom has kindly made available lightly edited versions of their papers in this issue. We look forward to the 2023 MLA Convention, at which … wait for it … we hope to conduct an in-person panel on the theme of ‘Work in/and Ezra Pound’s Cantos’ in line with the Presidential theme of ‘Working Conditions,’ with papers by Anderson Araujo, Jaime Weida, Xuela Zhang, and Yuxin Zhang (abstracts included in this issue). And speaking of conferences, in just a few weeks many of us will meet virtually for the 29th International Ezra Pound Conference intended for Kyoto on the highly appropriate theme of ‘Pound and Friendship.’

One of the biggest Poundian surprises in recent memory came in the form of my renewed correspondence with Cameron McEwen and Edwin J. Barton. Ed has edited a complete correspondence between Pound and Marshall McLuhan – 67 letters, accompanied by significant reference material and annotation, an introduction, and substantial appendices – and he has made this available for publication on the Ezra Pound Society website. We owe him a collective debt of gratitude. The current issue presents the first instalment of 20 letters – the collection is far too large for a single issue – and the remaining material will appear in two subsequent issues of Make It New in July and September. The entire correspondence will be archived on the EPS website.

This issue also documents an important – crucial – phase of Pound scholarship as well as the life of the Ezra Pound Society. This takes the form of Paula Camacho’s extensive interview with Roxana Preda, ‘Make It Digital!’ in which they discuss aspects of Roxana’s career in Pound Studies, including her heroic work on the EPS website, the inauguration of this journal, and the ongoing Cantos Project. Roxana is also asked about Pound’s modes of correspondence, particularly with women. This is a fascinating piece! I would like to thank both interviewer and interviewee for their generosity.

Make It New has long benefitted from companionable poetic work that extends and illuminates all kinds of Poundian matters. In this issue we are proud to host Ron Smith’s poetic sequence ‘Pentamerous Man Ray’ and ‘Dalí Wins Wild Eyes Competition Against Ray.’

Sadly we also commemorate losses in the Pound community in recent months. Richard Taylor passed away in December of 2020, leaving behind a formidable legacy as one of the great close readers and textual scholars of The Cantos, and whose considerable Cantos Annals project will be serialized in Make It New and archived on the EPS website. Michael Kindellan has written a tribute, Archie Henderson has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of Rick’s scholarly work on Pound, and generous contributors have provided several photographs. This year we also lost Philip Grover, a pioneer of what was to become the Ezra Pound International Conference and host of the first two meetings in Sheffield. Both Walter Baumann and Jo Brantley Berriman con-tribute with words and photographs and again Archie supplies Philip’s Poundian bibliography. Our collective loss was compounded just a few days ago with news of Hugh Witemeter’s unexpected passing on May Day: a full obituary is being prepared and will be published with photographs and Hugh’s Poundian bibliography in the July issue of Make It New.

As we move back into a world loosely resembling the one we left behind in March 2020 I am minded of the theme of the 2007 EPIC in Venice: Ends and Beginnings. These markers of history and futurity, of loss and memory, and of anticipation, all take on new inflections as we rebuild our worlds. Take care one and all, and I hope to see many of you virtually ‘in Kyoto.’ 

Mark Byron

Oxford, May 2022