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This review is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

Donald Davie WHO ARE THE POUNDIANS, AND WHAT IS IT THEY DO?

It is my impression that those who write about Pound today are very different from the Poundians of yesterday or yesteryear, of whom the pre-eminent and representative figure is surely Hugh Kenner. I want to test that impression by looking at some recent writings about Pound.

There is for instance an essay in Paideuma 13.3 (Winter 1984). It is by Angela Elliott, who exclaims admiringly at one point (p. 336): 'a subtle and lovely syncretism'. One is grateful for such explicitness: Ms Elliott is one of many enthusiastic readers of The Cantos nowadays for whom the main thrust of that poem, or perhaps among its several thrusts the one that they are happiest with, is syncretic. That there is such a thrust in The Cantos cannot be denied; the crucial collocation that Ms Elliott cites in her title - 'Pound's "Isis Kuanon"' - undoubtedly signals a syncretic intention on the poet's part, and invites the sort of interpretation that she duly or dutifully proceeds to, by which the vast circumstantial differences betwen ancient Egypt ('Isis') and ancient China ('Kuanon') are painstakingly ironed out so as to persuade us that they can be ignored.

The really ambitious syncretist is not content to reconcile only two systems of thought and belief; he is happiest when he has four or five balls in the air. And in fact what elicits Angela Elliott's admiring exclamation is a snatch of lines which, though they occur in a context impregnated with ...


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