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

James Laughlin GISTS & PITHS: A Memoir of Ezra Pound


James Laughlin, founder and director of New Directions, has been Pound's American publisher for roughly fifty years. This memoir was adapted from a talk he gave at the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. A longer version of it was published by the Windhover Press, Iowa, in 1982.


I met Pound in 1934, and was his friend as well as publisher until his death. This combination of business & friendship generated a large & wonderful correspondence. I received over 1500 letters from him, & I thought I would take from some of these, and from my memory, what Ezra would have called the 'gists and piths' and try to give a picture of the poet, and of the special relationship we had.

In the middle of my undergraduate years at Harvard I took a leave of absence and went to Europe. After some travel I ended up at Rapallo, as a student in Pound's informal and tuition-free 'Ezuversity'. I was trying very hard to write, but the results were awful copies of Pound that had none of his virtues. Ezra would take his pencil & slash through my poems, saying, 'No, no, that won't do! You don't need that word! That is slop!' Finally, towards the end of the 'term,' he got me aside and said, 'No Jas, it's hopeless. You're never gonna make a writer. No matter how hard you try, you'll never make it. I want you to go back ...


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