- Pound and Eliot
i Ezra Pound
This is a rich year for Pound studies, with the second volume of David Moody’s magisterial three-volume biography of Pound arriving (the final volume will appear in 2015), a volume of Pound and Eriugena, and some good articles.
a. Research Resource:
The Ezra Pound Society, under the active leadership of Roxana Preda, now provides a central resource for Pound scholars (ezrapoundsociety.org). This new platform includes a quarterly newsletter, Make It New, already a major venue for Pound. Complete primary and secondary bibliographies are now under way and will feature online reproduction of the long-out-of-print Garland three-volume Complete Poetry and Prose. Volume 1 is now complete, and annotation is well begun.
The Epic Years, 1921–1939, the second volume of A. David Moody’s three-decker biography, Ezra Pound: Poet: A Portrait of the Man and His Work (Oxford), treats Pound’s most active period and his transition to epic poet and political activist. Pound turned 36 in 1921, the year with which this book opens; he would be almost 54 by the time it closes on the eve of a second world war. [End Page 129]
For Moody Pound remains first and foremost a great poet, but an activist poet, a fierce opponent of finance capital and its parasitic, profit-seeking ethos, which he called “Usura,” the theory and practice of usury as a coercive system designed to squeeze profit out of the productive sectors of society, primarily agriculture but also any small producer who has to rent money from banks. Pound knew that wars are made to create debts, and for this reason he saw a second world war as inevitable: only a war could rescue the capitalist debt and credit system; only a war could resolve the Great Depression. Moody claims Pound “is writing the epic of the capitalist era, in which the will to social justice, as embodied in a few heroic individuals, must contend against the greed of the wealthy and powerful and the abuliea [passivity, lack of will] of the many.” These individuals—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Martin Van Buren, the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Lincoln Steffens, and Benito Mussolini—stand for good government, distributionist economics, and an ideal of democracy (yes, even under Fascism) as providing government responsible to the people—that is to say, to the numerous and hitherto disempowered debtor classes, in resistance to the “reign of private greed,” bankers and their ilk who finance progress by causing poverty. That this noble tale was vitiated by irruptions of anti-Semitism Moody does not deny or defend; rather, he tries to account for it by tracking Pound’s idiosyncratic version of Fascism. Since from the mid-1930s Pound’s politics veers ever rightward, this disturbing narrative takes up the latter three-fourths of the book.
Moody claims that, in contrast to Pound’s poetry and stated poetics, which is always in favor of a “sufficient phalanx of particulars” to make its argument, Pound’s economic propaganda tends to assume the reader, already possessing the facts, is willfully ignoring them. “When one takes Pound’s writings as a whole,” he notes, “one is confronted by the unresolved coexistence in him of the will to create and the will to destroy.” In Pound’s attacks, “emotion, the invective, stands in for the demonstrative detail; and that leaves the desired constructive action as a relatively abstract idea, while any will towards it is directed by hatred of evil rather than by a positive attraction toward the good to be done.”
The Pound biographer has a delicate task; he must maintain his deep respect for the work and refrain from rushing to judgment on the man. Some “inner Pound” is hard to get a handle on, even for Moody. Biographies are usually written and read by people who want to find out what makes the subject tick, and poets are most often [End Page 130] thought of as introspective if not downright narcissistic personalities. Not Pound. The most interesting aspect of Pound’s lack of interest in his own “psychological innards” is precisely that lack of...