Editorial: The ‘repeat in history’

If 2020 was the year like no other, then 2021 – for all of its outlandish events – carries an uncanny tenor of repetition. The progress of the COVID-19 pandemic in the rise of new variants and fourth, fifth, and sixth waves of infection reprises the lockdowns and health mandates of last year with uncanny familiarity. The difference in 2021 is the emergence of a raft of vaccines (for those lucky enough to have access to them, and to be of an eligible age) but the journey out of our current predicament remains uncertain.

This state of affairs has borne direct effects upon scholarly and creative activity: the deferral or cancellation of conferences, missed opportunities for collaboration, and the continuance of online modes of engagement in our teaching, research, and engagement. Many of us now possess an expertise in online platforms we could only have dreamed of two years ago, but few would hesitate to trade this for in-person encounters once conditions are safe enough again. The decision to defer the 2021 Ezra Pound International Conference in Kyoto to June 2022 was inevitable and wise, and we all hope that conditions allow for an in-person EPIC next year. Other conferences at which the Ezra Pound Society has regular representation were on hold this year – including the Modernism Studies in Asia conference which was to be held at Fudan University in Shanghai in July, and the Modernist Studies Association conference intended for Chicago in November. The Modern Language Association instead switched to an online format in January for its Toronto convention – rather an heroic feat, given the size and complexity of the program – and will host a blended event both in-person and online on 6-9 January at its Washington D.C. convention.

The obvious impediments to collaboration, conversation, and the sharing of resources has made for a challenging year in Pound Studies, and we have also been denied many opportunities to recite and hear the poetry produced in our community. However, the industrious among us have continued publishing, with four books this year: Ezra Pound’s Washington Cantos by Alec Marsh (Bloomsbury); Approaches to Teaching Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose, edited by Demetres Tryphonopoulos and Ira Nadel (MLA); Ezra Pound’s Japan by Andy Houwen (Bloomsbury); and Super Schoolmaster: Ezra Pound as Teacher, Then and Now, by the late Robert Scholes and David Ben-Merre (SUNY). In addition to the many essays and book chapters, Poundian research projects are finding their feet and making progress, dissertations are being written, and new energy is animating the field. Strangely, it might be a time of optimism.

In keeping with this positive note, this issue of Make It New (6.1-2) collects a rich array of materials: essays by Richard Sawyer on Pound’s connection between the Italian Fascist system of Ammassi and the Chinese granary system, and Panayiotes T. Tryphonopoulos on Pound and Marshall McLuhan in the digital age; a range of reviews of recent Poundian publications; scholarly notes; and a suite of poems by Ülkü Tamer – one of Turkey’s principal poets of the twentieth century and leader of the Second New Poetry movement of the 1950s – wonderfully translated by Efe Murad.

This issue of Make It New also initiates a column, ‘Young Scholar in Profile.’ Our first subject is Yuxin Zhang from the University of Sydney, who has written a Masters dissertation on the role of sound in Pound’s use of ideograms in the later Cantos, and is embarking on a PhD thesis investigating Pound’s work on the Confucian Odes or Shijing, including a raft of archival material pertaining to the auditory dimension of his unpublished multimedia ‘edition’ of the Odes. This column is an important addition to the journal, providing a venue in which we can showcase the work of our younger scholars and poets, and celebrate the regenerative energy of Pound’s work. Please be in touch if you know of a young scholar or poet whose profile would be of interest to the readership, or indeed if you are a young scholar or poet with an interest in Pound Studies.

In this year of deferment and loss there have been losses close to home for our community too. Earlier in the year marked the passing of Lawrence Rainey, whose work in Pound Studies, Eliot Studies, and Modernism Studies more generally is well known, and whose role in helping to establish the Modernism Studies Association as well as the journal Modernism / modernity, of which he was founding editor, has provided enormous benefit to the field. We mark his passing with an obituary provided by the Department of English at the University of York, and two personal reminiscences by his former student Ben Madden and friend and colleague Stefano Maria Casella. This issue also marks the passing of Denis Donoghue, a giant of Irish, English, and American Literary scholarship and author of an incredible array of works on W. B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, R. P. Blackmur, Jonathan Swift, and Henry James – whose name graced the Chair at New York University to which Denis was appointed in 1980 – among many other writers, historical periods, and genres. Walter Baumann kindly wrote an obituary for Denis, and Archie Henderson has rather heroically compiled a bibliography. Many of us remember Donoghue’s keynote presentation, ‘A Packet for Ezra Pound,’ at the 20th Ezra Pound International Conference in Hailey, Idaho in 2002. His passing marks the end of an era of which that particular meeting was an emblem: Hugh Kenner, Robert Creeley, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were all there too, the latter having passed away earlier this year at the age of 101.

In many senses the end of 2021 marks the repeat in history we wish we didn’t have to endure, but it might also be seen as a moment of ends and beginnings. May you each find that measure of peace and equilibrium of which I wrote this time last year, and again I extend my best wishes for the holiday season and for a brighter 2022.

In the spirit of repetition, may I also thank Ryan Johnson for his industry and transcendental patience as assistant editor of Make It New. We wouldn’t be meeting here now without him!

Mark Byron

Sydney, December 2021