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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

SELF-CONDEMNED Pound's Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy, edited by Richard Humphries (Tate Gallery) £7.95 pb.
Pound/Lewis: the Letters of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, edited by Timothy Materer (Faber & Faber) £25.00
Carroll F. Terrell, A Companion to the Cantos of Ezra Pound, vol.2 (University of California Press) £35.00

Seventy years after the Great War a young interviewee thought it had been fought against Belgium: Pound's task was in some measure to correct such treacheries of memory, and false or absent teaching. He believed a nation unable to envisage its history loses its identity and cultural cohesion. Some of the difficulties in the Cantos, particularly the later works, are the results of the ever-ramifying nature of the search for illuminating historical sources that Pound sought to enshrine in his 'tale of the tribe'. It as if Pound, in trying to revitalize the Epic, finds himself ambushed by the embarras de richesses that history necessarily poses so many centuries after Homer. In their different ways, the three books serve as invaluable aids for pursuit of the often bewildering tracks that Pound - as cultural scout - laid down decades ago.

The Tate's catalogue essays are a sober, conscientious record of an invigorating exhibition. Thoughtful rather than thought-provoking, they defuse much of the sheer maniacal glee that the letters reveal Pound brought to his task, as the 'demon pantechnicon driver busy removing old world into new quarters' (Lewis). This measured response instils a clarity into the subject which is very welcome, however, and the judicious choice of quotations and illustrations enables the essayists to avoid that after-the-event academicism too frequently found in contemporary cataloguery. A poet himself, Peter Robinson is particularly clear in outlining the transvaluation of Renaissance values Pound attempted in Italy, and the milieux of both ...


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