Exile's
        Return

Ezra Pound
Exile's
Return

Exile's Return

Ezra Pound presented a less intimidating picture, since he was known not so much for his own creations as for his advocacy of other writers and his sallies against the stupid public. His function seemed to be that of a schoolmaster, in a double sense of the word. He schooled the public in scolding it; he was always presenting it with new authors to admire, new readings of the classics, new and stricter rules for judging poetry. It was Gertrude Stein who said that he was "a village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not." Miss Stein herself seldom bothered to explain, although she liked to have young men sit at her feet and was not above being jealous of Pound's influence on the younger writers. The influence was extensive and well earned. He not only gave the best of advice to writers but often tried to organize them into groups or schools, each with its own manifesto and its own magazine; that is the second sense in which he might have been called schoolmaster.

In London he had started the Imagiste school and then, after relinquishing the name to Amy Lowell (who had dropped the "e" from it, together with most of the principles on which the group was founded), had assembled the Vorticists, who survived as a group until most of the members were called into military service. Besides these formal groups that Pound inspired he also had a circle of friends that included some of the greatest poets of our time. They deferred to Pound because they felt that he had shown an unselfish devotion to literature. He had fought to win recognition for the work of other writers at a time when much of his own work was going unpublished, and he had obtained financial support for others that he could as easily have had for himself. During most of his career he had earned hardly more than the wages of an English day laborer. "If I accept more than I need," he used to say, "I at once become a sponger."

Exile's Return

He was still convinced that he had been right to leave America. America was England thirty years before. America was England without the fifty most intelligent men. America didn't print his poems in magazines until they had been collected into books in England. Perhaps he had been misled by the early recognition he received there; perhaps it had made him willing for a time to write the sort of poems that friendly critics expected him to write. He had spent three years studying Oxford English before he learned that he was wasting his efforts; that English is not Latin and must be written as one speaks it.

Exile's Return

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Ezra Pound