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PN Review 276
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This item is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

Pounding (1)

Your reviewer of Sons of Ezra: British Poets and Ezra Pound (PNR 108) says that 'decades of critical silence have resulted in much confusion and trepidation' about Pound. There is confusion, but not because of critical silence. PNR has given Sons, a collection of testimonies by poets, to a reviewer who wants critical guidance, who thinks Pound's essay 'I gather the Limbs of Osiris' is a poem.

As for 'decades of critical silence', what about Kenner, The Pound Era, 1971? What about Donald Davie? Sons of Ezra was declined by Carcanet because Carcanet had recently published Davie's four books on Pound. We could find no British publisher for the book. The critic Davie can now rest in silence. Meanwhile, to those looking for a critical introduction, may I recommend Alexander's The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound, 1978? And to any one looking for a poem, may I recommend Pound's 'The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter'?

St Andrews

Pounding (2)

In his article, 'In the Case of Julius v. Mr. Eliot (PNR 110) Frederic Raphael says 'Ezra Pound's anti-Semitism is so manifest (and programmatically murderous) that only the most refined minds are scrupulous enough to deny its centrality to his work'. I'm sure I don't possess a 'refined mind' (whatever that phrase means?!) but Raphael's statement is unscrupulous because it fails to take into account passages in Pound's writings (there are several) where he attacked anti-Semitism. I give one example: 'Race prejudice is red herring. The tool of the man defeated intellectually and of the cheap politician… It is nonsense for the anglo-saxon to revile the jew for beating him at his own game' (Guide to Kulchur).

Those inevitably dwindling number of people who had the privilege of knowing Pound personally remember him as entirely without that meanness of spirit which characterises the true anti-Semite. The Jewish poet, Louis Zukofsky put this well when he recalled: 'I never felt the least trace of anti-Semitism in his presence. Nothing he ever said made me feel the embarrassment I always have for the "Goy" in whom an antagonism to "Jew" remains. If we had occasion to use the words "Jew" and "Goy" they were no more ethnological in their sense than "Chinese" and "Italian".'

It is rubbish to suggest that anti-Semitism is central to the poetry of either Pound, or Eliot. The number of anti-Jewish lines in the Cantos is under ten in a poem of over 800 pages. Pound says worse things about the English and the Portuguese. Julius has had the ingenuity to construct a book on the basis of a similarly small number of lines in Eliot's opus. Neither Julius, nor Raphael in his comment, show any sense of proportion.

To use Pound's words again, 'No one will deny that the Jews have racial characteristics, better and worse ones.' One of the evil legacies of Hitler is that any literature that is critical of Jews is regarded as more reprehensible than writing expressing criticism of other groups or races. This is unhealthy.

I close this letter on a personal note. When Pound was doing his best to educate me by letter from St Elizabeth's in 1957-8 (I was an English schoolboy and aspiring poet) he several times warned against anti-Semitism. I quote three sentences from those letters: 'I am "of course" not anti-Semitic. I am merely against irresponsible oligarchy' (7 February 58). 'The enemy is IGGURUNCE not jews or masons' (10 January 58) and 'One should not make the battle line on the edge of race' (11 April 58).

Editor, Agenda

This item is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

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