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Ezra Pound: Poet. Volume I: The Young Genius 1885-1920

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This first volume of what will be a full-scale biography presents Ezra Pound as a very determined and energetic young genius--at 15 he told his father "I want to write before I die the greatest poems that have ever been written"--setting out to make his way both as a poet and as a force for civilization in England and America in the years before, during and just after Worl This first volume of what will be a full-scale biography presents Ezra Pound as a very determined and energetic young genius--at 15 he told his father "I want to write before I die the greatest poems that have ever been written"--setting out to make his way both as a poet and as a force for civilization in England and America in the years before, during and just after World War I. In this lively narrative A. David Moody weaves a story of Pound's early life and loves, his education in America, and his years in London, where he trained himself to become a great poet-learning from W. B.Yeats, Ford Madox Hueffer, and others-and exhorting his contemporaries to abandon Victorian sentimentality and "make it new." Pound was at the center of everything, forming his own Imagiste group, joining with Wyndham Lewis in his Vorticism, championing the work of James Joyce, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and T. S. Eliot, and constantly on the lookout for new talent as International Editor for Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine. Moody traces Pound's evolution as a poet from the derivative idealism and aestheticism of his precocious youth to his Cathay," based on the transliterations of the Sineologist Ernest Fenollosa, to the stunningly original Homage to SextusPropertius and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. By 1920 Pound was established as a force for revolution in poetry and in his critical writing as a brilliant iconoclast who argued against stifling conventions and the economic injustice of the capitalist system. Ezra Pound: Poet gives us illuminating readings of the major early works and a unforgettable portrait of Pound himself-by turns brilliant, combative, selfless, ambitious-and always fascinating.


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This first volume of what will be a full-scale biography presents Ezra Pound as a very determined and energetic young genius--at 15 he told his father "I want to write before I die the greatest poems that have ever been written"--setting out to make his way both as a poet and as a force for civilization in England and America in the years before, during and just after Worl This first volume of what will be a full-scale biography presents Ezra Pound as a very determined and energetic young genius--at 15 he told his father "I want to write before I die the greatest poems that have ever been written"--setting out to make his way both as a poet and as a force for civilization in England and America in the years before, during and just after World War I. In this lively narrative A. David Moody weaves a story of Pound's early life and loves, his education in America, and his years in London, where he trained himself to become a great poet-learning from W. B.Yeats, Ford Madox Hueffer, and others-and exhorting his contemporaries to abandon Victorian sentimentality and "make it new." Pound was at the center of everything, forming his own Imagiste group, joining with Wyndham Lewis in his Vorticism, championing the work of James Joyce, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and T. S. Eliot, and constantly on the lookout for new talent as International Editor for Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine. Moody traces Pound's evolution as a poet from the derivative idealism and aestheticism of his precocious youth to his Cathay," based on the transliterations of the Sineologist Ernest Fenollosa, to the stunningly original Homage to SextusPropertius and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. By 1920 Pound was established as a force for revolution in poetry and in his critical writing as a brilliant iconoclast who argued against stifling conventions and the economic injustice of the capitalist system. Ezra Pound: Poet gives us illuminating readings of the major early works and a unforgettable portrait of Pound himself-by turns brilliant, combative, selfless, ambitious-and always fascinating.

52 review for Ezra Pound: Poet. Volume I: The Young Genius 1885-1920

  1. 5 out of 5

    John

    "The events of a life like mine are of course fantasmagoria, but the events working inward - I mean the effects of events on whatever in genuis takes the place of the 'self' in a human being are even harder to follow." E.P. Indeed. But I appreciate the minutia of even utterly literary lives, especially those of remarkable talent, energy and ambition like Pound's. This 1st of 2 volumes covers his education - in the US and then England - and growth of his busy career as poet, journalist, reviewer a "The events of a life like mine are of course fantasmagoria, but the events working inward - I mean the effects of events on whatever in genuis takes the place of the 'self' in a human being are even harder to follow." E.P. Indeed. But I appreciate the minutia of even utterly literary lives, especially those of remarkable talent, energy and ambition like Pound's. This 1st of 2 volumes covers his education - in the US and then England - and growth of his busy career as poet, journalist, reviewer and tireless organizer after what he considered to be true art worth supporting. (Volume 2 will cover his move and time in Italy from the late 20's on, including his stupid embrace of Mussolini's fascism.) Two things I like about Pound: 1) he did not produce or support art out of boredom, or self-exploration or some other baser motive. He was convinced the world needed true poetry, new images woven out of the old myths, and he'd tried his best to deliver. Poetry for him was not a department of life, let along a diversion (No!), but essential to the salvation of a civilization worthy of humanity. Poetry's moral and social function is to release the mind from staid habits of thought, destroy the numbing effect of propaganda, and energize us to experience the world anew. Not many out there in our cynical, ironic age who are raising this heavy banner, sadly. 2) He appears to have been consistently frugal and exceeding generous to all, and especially to those he thought were genius artists in need of support like him. I loved reading lines from a letter of his to a young struggling poet, offering advice on how to economize by cooking at home (even sharing cheap recipes in the letter) and recommending a few spots out in the country where he could stay and work for a season if he can save some money. Pound was always raising money from wealthy collectors, giving most of it to people like Joyce and Eliot. Both of these latter seem like ungrateful rich brats compared to E.P. - if you think Ulysses and The Waste Land are great works, you probably have Pound to thank more than the direct authors. He was editor, literary agent, fundraiser, and militant campaigner all in one. Finally, Pound was really a genius, and completely dedicated to his learning and art. He gave lectures on Provencal poetry and the Troubadour tradition when he was like 25! He set high, exacting standards for himself and others - he was distinctly against the grain of the democratic American poetic line which says anybody with a pad in hand and a bird in the backyard tree could write a poem (and very much the opposite of WC Williams, his friend, in this judgment). He was not a democrat - and his enthusiasm combined with his contempt for the popular would help him make his awful pact with fascism. but that comes in Volume 2. But what would great art be without standards? What are the standards we measure things by today?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ted Burke

    Pound the poet, the propagandist, the editor, the talent scout, all dutifully reported and examined by A.David Moody, a literature professor and literary biographer. William Carlos Williams had opined that the self-created Pound was certainly a genius but added that he was, as well, “an ass”. I was grateful to read this in this slow moving biography , if only to know that it wasn’t just me that thought him as someone who it was more work than it was worth to know.Moody's thesis seems to confirm Pound the poet, the propagandist, the editor, the talent scout, all dutifully reported and examined by A.David Moody, a literature professor and literary biographer. William Carlos Williams had opined that the self-created Pound was certainly a genius but added that he was, as well, “an ass”. I was grateful to read this in this slow moving biography , if only to know that it wasn’t just me that thought him as someone who it was more work than it was worth to know.Moody's thesis seems to confirm my suspicions that the greater part of Pound's genius, as it were, lay in his massive appreciation in the genius of others. He was, in my view, a first rate talent scout and an enthusiastic supporter of new and revolutionary work. I will admit that there are those few poems written by his hand that I've actually liked, but as the review suggests, his most radical writing wasn't just dense difficult by a daunting erudition, but because the writing was a melange of styles , emulations, parodies and voices that collectively couldn't pierce the veil of self-imposed obscurity. The difficulty seems a self-fulfilling prophecy; purposefully abstruse verse with little aid to the curious, and a built in rationale for further lacerating the rubes for their failure to "get" what he was getting at. Like Ayn Rand, Pound's central belief was in genius that was dictatorial and not obliged to make the new ideas comprehensible . One got with the program or be trampled by the revolution to follow. Pound is one of the most fascinating men in American literature, and he'll no doubt continue to vex generations of bright poets to come. But that is something we who think literature should , by default, have "progressive" leanings will have to grin and bear. Like or not, Pound revolutionized Poetry coming into the 20Th century just as D.W.Griffith created the modern film narrative style with his epic and naively racist Birth of a Nation. Much of the time great work doesn't come from morally unambiguous personalities

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    This is a fascinating account of Pound's early life and the development of his poetics (before he became a nutter). Exploring Pound's own work as well as his relationships with (and support of) Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, Ford, Lewis, and others, the author reveals—in a wonderfully readable narrative—how crucial Pound was to modern poetry. This is a fascinating account of Pound's early life and the development of his poetics (before he became a nutter). Exploring Pound's own work as well as his relationships with (and support of) Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, Ford, Lewis, and others, the author reveals—in a wonderfully readable narrative—how crucial Pound was to modern poetry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    Exhaustive . . . and exhausting. The paperbound version is just shy of two pounds! Even carrying it around is work. And have no doubt, a lot of work went into this book. A lot. Moody nicely finesses the traditional biographical obligation of spending too much time on the subject's family and lineage, using jump cuts to his advantage. But along about the time Pound gets to college he slows up and what we have here is a month-to-month account of Pound's life. Put another way, what we have here is a c Exhaustive . . . and exhausting. The paperbound version is just shy of two pounds! Even carrying it around is work. And have no doubt, a lot of work went into this book. A lot. Moody nicely finesses the traditional biographical obligation of spending too much time on the subject's family and lineage, using jump cuts to his advantage. But along about the time Pound gets to college he slows up and what we have here is a month-to-month account of Pound's life. Put another way, what we have here is a chronicle more than a biography. Moody is very close to his subject--so much so that those coming cold to Pound (as I was) will find part of the book confusing if not downright unintelligible. The context is always Pound's immediate contacts, immediate connections, immediate relations. It took a brass ass to sit in the archives long enough to get all of this down, and that work alone warrants the book an extra star. Hats off to Moody. He is also attuned to Pound's poetry, above all, and offers insightful readings of his work--attention to the aesthetic dimensions of artists is weirdly infrequent in modern biographies, which focus on the psychological and the sociological instead. All these are good things. Especially since Pound--at least as I know him--is best remembered as an editor and promoter of others, like James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. (Also that he sympathized with Fascists and was put in an inane asylum, but those are only foreshadowed in this volume.) The focus on the month-to-month, year-to-year is helpful in showing how Pound was thinking through issues. Steeped in the classics, trained in a number of European languages, Pound nonetheless revolted against fin de siecle language education, which was too philological. That is to say, too focused on the precise meaning of words, losing the Romance, the psychic and spiritual dimensions of the classic works. He wanted to retrieve the beauty of the European canon, to celebrate it. And early in his career, that's exactly what he did. He favored the musical power of words over their meaning, the auditory imagination over the visual. At times, this could lead him to excess. Critical of American Society as young and stupid, pitched at the common denominator, Pound made his way to Europe, spending most of this volume in England. There he came under the influence of Ford Maddox Ford, who began a tutelage that led Pound to focusing more on the image created by the words, that made him less poetic and more grounded. Since Moody is so close to his subject, he never seems to see the irony of this--that Pound returned to a species of philology. Around 1912, he became associated with Imagism, which focused on the spiritual and psychic understandings of a word. There was a scientific angle to this approach: Pound thought that he was defining the individual's response to the world, which should be grounds for a new civics and ethics. His association with Imagism was short-lived, though (Amy Lowell took on its mantle) and he moved on to Wyndham Lewis's Vorticism, which was about harnessing the energy of the universe into works of art. The focus here was more on organization that the words itself--Vorticism, unsurprisingly, was influenced by Cubism. By the end of the book, Pound is between movements, grounding his work more and more in the quotidian, even as it is shaped by classical structures, particularly those of Dante, and making attempts on what he believed would be his life's work, his Cantos. Interleaved with this artistic history is a political history. From the beginning, Pound seems to have seen himself as a genius out to remake the Western canon by bringing together its most important elements. (Oddly, he seems to have had a very conservative view of domesticity, unlike many other modernists, who challenged Victorian mores in their lives, as well: men sleeping around.) Along with this was an emphasis on the individual as the engine of history, particularly the gifted individual. This view would inform Pound's ideas about World War I--America should intervene because the world should be made for the individual, not the individual for the system, and Germany was totalitarian. Not that Pound was either a democrat or a progressive. Although he was dependent upon a number of women--the editors of Poetry, the Egoist and Chicago's famous Little Review were all women (another irony Moody misses)--Pound chafed at the feminization of culture. He thought that society should be based upon individual geniuses spreading enlightenment and was at pains to point out the stupidity of the masses, the crowds. He did not like captialism, but also did not associate with socialism, coming, instead, to embrace Major Douglas's "Social Credit," which based the economy on the individual, not the system. Weirdly, Moody barely mentions Nietzsche, although Pound's views seem clearly influenced by the German writer, if not from him directly then from Mencken. He also goes to lengths to absolved Pound of any belief in occultism--because he did not believe in spiritualists or mediums--but that seems overly simplistic, given the crowd with which he ran: Yeats, of course, who was very different than Ford Maddox Ford and was drawn to occult ideas; he wrote for the mystical magazine "the New Age." Certainly there were occultish--or mystical--elements to Pound's writings, something that opposed the strict materialism of science. But, again, because Moody is so close to Pound, we never get the wider context. Indeed, personally, I would have liked Moody to make connections between Pound and the science of the day. Imagism was conceived as a kind of science. And its successor, Vorticism, was explicitly scientific, although allied with a view of science that was increasingly seen as wrong, superseded, and connected to the paranormal and pseudoscientific. What of this did Pound know? What did he intuit? What was going on? These are the questions that Moody is unequipped to answer. A biography obviously cannot have everything, and this one already has a lot. It's tightly focused on the man much more than the life and times, critical of his literary work, but not a critical understanding of Pound as a member of the twentieth century.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Flob

    Good and well researched biography. I will certainly continue into the second.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julian BLOWER

    read humphrey carpenter's bio if you want the narrative to stick closely to pound's life and activities from cradle to grave. by comparison, moody usually narrates only as much as is beneficial to understanding pound's poetic mindset. the rest is a very good chronological, comprehensive criticism of the poetry. i'm very excited to read this criticism as applied to EP's post-20s work on the cantos. the only misgiving i have in this first volume is that it may be a little too comprehensive on the p read humphrey carpenter's bio if you want the narrative to stick closely to pound's life and activities from cradle to grave. by comparison, moody usually narrates only as much as is beneficial to understanding pound's poetic mindset. the rest is a very good chronological, comprehensive criticism of the poetry. i'm very excited to read this criticism as applied to EP's post-20s work on the cantos. the only misgiving i have in this first volume is that it may be a little too comprehensive on the point of very early work ( A Lume Spento, etc. ), work that isn't always worth reading itself, let alone reading convoluted analysis of.

  7. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnn

    So far, it is a great biography of Pound, and I am enjoying it. I haven't read enough to completely review it, but from what I can tell, it is very nicely written and deserves at least a 3 star rating for now. So far, it is a great biography of Pound, and I am enjoying it. I haven't read enough to completely review it, but from what I can tell, it is very nicely written and deserves at least a 3 star rating for now.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cooper Renner

    I mostly enjoyed the biographical sections. Pound's generosity to other writers when he was still struggling himself is amazing. The litcrit sections I mostly skipped. I mostly enjoyed the biographical sections. Pound's generosity to other writers when he was still struggling himself is amazing. The litcrit sections I mostly skipped.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    Biog P876mo

  10. 4 out of 5

    Louis

  11. 4 out of 5

    Casey

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ejcarter

  13. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leo Dunsker

  15. 5 out of 5

    Louis-Jean Levasseur

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rach

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Roberts

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gerard

  22. 4 out of 5

    Standard

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark Vassallo

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Fairfield

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  26. 4 out of 5

    Neil Griffiths

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Howdle

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hayden

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  31. 4 out of 5

    Sal

  32. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  33. 5 out of 5

    Travis

  34. 4 out of 5

    Toby

  35. 4 out of 5

    David

  36. 5 out of 5

    Frank Sauce

  37. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  38. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Bush

  39. 4 out of 5

    David

  40. 4 out of 5

    James

  41. 5 out of 5

    Cory Hughes

  42. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  43. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Lett

  44. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  45. 5 out of 5

    Sundin Richards

  46. 4 out of 5

    Ross Cohen

  47. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  48. 5 out of 5

    Adair Burciaga

  49. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  50. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  51. 5 out of 5

    Angie

  52. 4 out of 5

    John Calvin

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