BK. Ezra Pound

133. Enright, D. J. ‘Dialect and Analect’. Review of Life of Ezra Pound (126), by Noel Stock. In Man is an Onion: Reviews and Essays. London: Chatto & Windus, 1972.


Includes Enright’s provocative analysis of Pound’s acquisition and use of Fenollosa’s manuscripts:

Given a tendency toward dialect, imitated or concocted, and a taste for the archaic, Pound was an easy prey for the exotic, remote in space as well as in time. Despite Eliot’s claim that Pound was the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time [in 39; see 15], I think it was a disaster when in 1913 Pound acquired the literary remains of Ernest Fenollosa, one of that still extant class of talented amateurs devoted to the ancient and suspicious of the modern of whom Lafcadio Hearn is probably the best known. Pound found so many new toys to play with, free from competition or restraint; and his tendency to believe that a thing really was what Ezra said it was found a large new territory in which to expand. I don’t suppose it matters much, in itself, that Li Po has been perpetuated as Rihaku (though the Chinese might wonder why Pound handed over one of their very greatest poets to the Japanese), or that in his version of the Nô play, Suma Genji (17e), titles of the books of The Tale of Genji have been read as place names, or that there are at least two references in Cathay (15) to “the River Kiang”, although “Kiang” means “River”. . . . But more harmful was the ethico-political mythology he erected out of Fenollosa’s notebooks.

Enright praises Pound for his ‘fragments of fine poetry’ and ‘grandiosity’, but blames Fenollosa’s notebooks for his tendency to ‘thrust the present into the straight-jacket of a largely imaginary past’. Dated 1970.





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