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Ezra Pound Speaking

Edited by Leonard W. Doob


The best reason for publishing Ezra Pound’s Italian broadcasts may be the simplest. Thousands of people have heard about them, scores have been affected by them, yet but a handful has ever heard or read them. Here they are.

There are other compelling reasons, the first having to do with the magnitude of their author. No other American—and only a few individuals throughout the world—has left such a strong mark on so many aspects of the twentieth century: from poetry to economics, from theater to philosophy, from politics to pedagogy, from Provençal to Chinese. If Pound was not always totally accepted, at least he was unavoidably there.

Those traits of mind and character that made Pound so inescapable are not only evident in the broadcasts but also present in ways that make them more fully understandable. Here is that same fearless plunge toward the heart of the matter—often heedless of consistencies—that marked his study of ancient and exotic languages and cultures. Here is that same urge to simplify and instruct that marked his unorthodox textbooks: ABC of Economics, ABC of Reading and the rest. Here is that flair for dramatic hyperbole which peppered the Cantos and produced such deliberately shocking titles as Jefferson and/or Mussolini. The broadcasts do not always show these traits at their best, but their blatant presence makes them useful clues in putting together the puzzle of that powerful enigma at their center.

Even if the shadow of Ezra Pound did not so broadly color this century, these broadcasts might still command a clinical respect for the way in which they interrelate so vitally with the rise of fascism in Europe and the accompanying extremes of feelings, with the cause and conduct of World War II as viewed from this special place by this very special commentator. To the historians who have counted this an almost anti-ideological war, the broad casts offer considerable counterpoint. Furthermore, they are the starting point for understanding two major cultural events of the postwar years: the trial of Ezra Pound and the literary prize controversies. The Bollingen Prize debate—by itself the politico-literary cause célèbre of the generation—while once totally preoccupying has to this day refused to lie at rest. Even this young Greenwood Press series, begun twenty-five years after the fact, offers two fresh and extensive treatments of the issue. Such insistent unrest shows clearly the need for this essential evidence now at hand.

The broadcasts do not show Pound at his best. War, bigotry, and totalitarianism are not sunny subjects. Yet giant figures need their full dimensions, and unpleasant subjects can and should be studied for the best of reasons. How indeed are we to lessen our chances for future encounters with shrinking horizons if we do not learn from episodes so recent, so strongly cast, and so richly charted?

We applaud, then, the respect for a complete historic record which has allowed the Pound Literary Trustees to overcome an understandable reluctance toward seeing these scripts in print. We applaud this same impulse which has motivated the patience and stamina of Leonard Doob. There are, and there will always be, more motives behind an act like this than one can chronicle. From our point of view, however, this work provides a singular and extensive collection of data for the pursuit of that most bewildering of cultural equations: the balance between the creative force, the individual personality, and the social context. Seen in this light, Ezra Pound’s texts become a “Contribution in American Studies” at a profound and essential level.

February 1975

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