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Monday, December 16, 2013

When Ezra helped James

Author and critic Ted Gioia, last seen here writing a review of Illuminatus!, has just published an article, at the Daily Beast, about two of Robert Anton Wilson's favorite writers, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. The piece, "The Letter That Changes the Course of Modern Fiction,"  details how 100 years ago Pound, at a critical point in Joyce's life when Joyce was having a great deal of trouble getting any serious work published, Pound wrote Joyce an unsolicited letter and offered to help.

Joyce, Gioia explains, had been unable to find a publisher for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and had even once tried to burn the manuscript. Gioia writes,

"Pound proved of incalculable value to his new friend. In the coming months, he would arrange for the serialization of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in a fashionable literary journal. He sent off Joyce’s short stories to H.L. Mencken, the influential American journalist and editor. Pound also featured Joyce’s poem “I Hear an Army,” written a decade earlier and now all but forgotten, in an anthology of Imagist poetry.

"These two young men were unlikely allies. In his first letter to Joyce, Pound admits: 'I imagine we have a hate or two in common—but that’s a very problematical bond on introduction.'

"But Pound’s efforts on Joyce’s behalf didn’t stop there. He spread word of the Irish author’s genius to his numerous contacts in the literary world, and started laying the groundwork for the later success of Ulysses. In championing his new discovery, Pound brought his work to the attention of Harriet Weaver, later Joyce’s chief financial backer, and Sylvia Beach, the Parisian bookseller who would eventually publish Ulysses. In the face of every obstacle stifling Joyce’s prospects—financial, editorial, legal—his new American friend searched for solutions, and more often than not found them."

It's not a very long piece. Go read it.


michael said...

Pound did the same for Hemingway, ee cummings, Robert Frost, HD, Williams, James Dickey, Eliot, and many, many others.

At a very early age Pound looked at the landscape of Western poetry and declared a revolution was in order. He was successful. His peculiar madness and embrace of fascist ideas (although he never joined to fascist party) has put him on the contemporary Index.

If he hadn't deluded himself into thinking Mussolini was like Jefferson...I used to think he'd be read more now, but lately I've wondered. People don't seem to like the DIFFICULT much at all.

Now I'll go read the Gioia piece to see where I've been redundant.

fyreflye said...

Pound still has his readers and admirers, myself among them. It’s poetry itself that has faced a declining readership. People don't, and never have, liked difficult stuff, and its also true that they prefer stories to fact. A close reading of Pound’s long and difficult work The Cantos would do wonders for clearing out the heads of RAW fans.

michael said...

I told RAW my then-current practice (c.2004?) was to read a Canto straight; consult Terrell, Makin or Cookson (all wrote books of annotations); read the Canto again; then for a fourth reading read it stoned.

He said he thought that was an excellent strategy.

A great proto-Tweet?:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.