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280 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 the place where poetry is internal to language and not merely a product of it. A philosophical language would be pun-free the way Plato's Republic would be free of poets. Against Coercion is against this kind of coercion, which Cook sees as a basic feature of contemporary literary study, with its distrust of language and its detennination to level the genre distinctions between poetry and cultural productions in generaL Against coercion, the essays here revel in poetic language, orin the kind of]anguage poetry revels in CThe spook and makings of the,nude magnolia'). One hopes that some day soon Cook will take up some of the 'language poets' (like the Can'adian poet Steve McCaffrey) who come down to us from William Carlos Williams and his idea that poetry is a listening to language and not merely a display of linguistic competence. (GERALD BRUNS) DemetresP. Tryphonopoulos and Leon Surette, editors. '] Cease Not to Yowl': Ezra Pound's Letters to Olivia Rossetti Agresti University of Illinois Press. xxviii, 328. us $39.95 In Washington between 1945 and 1958, St Elizabeths Federal Hospital for the Insane opened its gates to two quite different groups of pilgrims. Ezra Pound was confined there in the aftermath of his wartime broadcasts from Fascist Italy, and he gave his visitors audience on days carefully separated: one day for readers of his poetry/ another day for a coven of race-baiters and Nazis who read his political tracts. We readers of the poetry have been confined to the off-days ever since. On our own pilgrimage into Pound's language, most of us have excluded ourselves more or less willingly from the penetralia of Pound's Fascism and anti-Semitism. If D.D. Paige's canonical Selected Letters oJEzra Pound, 1907-1941 (1950) demonstrates that Pound was a great poet who incidentally wrote wonderful letters, we have been happy to end the tale there. In the last letter published by Paige, Pound glosses his line The water-bug'S mittens show on the bright rock below him.' The poet's eye always loved light. But Pound's letters from St Elizabeths to Olivia Rossetti Agresti weren't concerned with poetry. An Englishwoman who spent most of her life in Italy, Olivia Agresti (1875-1960) was related to two of Pound's literary heroes/ William Michael Rossetti and Ford Madox Ford, and in the next to last letter in this collection she reminisces, 'I remember Browning coming to om old home in Endsleigh Gdns. when I was a little girl.' 'Uberhaupt ich stamm aus Browning,' Pound had written to the French critic Rene Taupin in 1928. 'Pourquoi nier son pere?' But to Agresti he wrote about antiSemitism ; specifically, the need for anti-Semitism. For Pound saw Agresti as a person with a problem: she was a Fascist but not an anti-Semite. 'It was when Mussolini ceased to be guided by his HUMANITIES 281 Italian instinct, when he attempted to link up Italy to an aggressive military power, to teach the Italian to feel contempt for the African and hatred for the Jew, that he failed,' Agresti sorrowfully writes. Ezra Pound undertook to educate her out of that belief, and this book is his practicum. In it, modernism's greatexplorer oflanguage drinks Circe's tisane and turns into a gibbering maniac with a mouth full of murderous cliches. Some of the cliches are European. (One of Pound's new interests as of 1953 was a volume of Hitler's table talk) Some are American. (Another new interest was the right-wing demagogue Joseph R. McCarthy, whom Pound compared admiringly with Hitler and Mussolini.) But all of them are cliches. They adhere to every word the poet writes, and his language crumbles under their influence. Here as in the later Cantos, for example, Pound pays homage to the historian Alexander Del Mar, a source of his crackpot ideas about money. In 1955, however, Pound is told by his new friend John Kasper, professional racist, that Del Mar was a Jew. 'I shall go on reviving his glorious memory,' he defiantly writes to Agresti. 'NOT that such impartiality will do me any...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 280-281
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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