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Joyce, Lawrence and Frost
Ezra Pound’s efforts on behalf of other writers, particularly in London in the teens, were tireless. Three writers whom Pound promoted, recommended to editors, and reviewed could not have been more different from one another: David Herbert Lawrence, the son of a Nottinghamshire miner; Robert Frost, who arrived in England in 1913 after a period of farming in America; and James Joyce, an Irishman whom Yeats thought had written some good lyric poetry.
Pound was never quite as sure-footed in his criticism about prose as he was about poetry. “I can’t usually read prose at all not anybody’s in English except James and Hudson and a little Conrad…,” he wrote to Joyce upon reading the first chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and greatly preferred Lawrence’s poems to his novels. In his review of Love Poems and Others (1913), he said of Lawrence, he “has brought contemporary verse up to the level of contemporary prose.”
Robert Frost was a writer whose work never had much appeal to Pound, but Pound recognized the quality of Frost’s “natural speech,” and promoted him and wrote a positive review of Frost’s first book, A Boy’s Will, for Poetry magazine in 1913. Forty years later, Frost’s influence was instrumental in assisting with Pound’s release from St. Elizabeths hospital.
Pound first heard of James Joyce through Yeats, and contacted Joyce in Trieste in 1913. Joyce was at a low point; his book of poems Chamber Music had been published six years earlier and was his only book in print, and he was in poor financial straits trying to support his wife and two children. Joyce’s difficulties in publishing his collection Dubliners were legendary; it took him almost ten years for the volume to be published without expurgation. Pound was drawn by Joyce’s travails with censorious publishers, and his support resulted in the publication of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a serialization in The Egoist in 1914. Joyce was extremely grateful to Pound for his support; he wrote to Yeats, “I can never thank you enough for having brought me into relation with your friend Ezra Pound who is indeed a miracle worker.” It was several years later, in 1918, that Pound’s machinations saw through the first serial publication of Ulysses, in The Little Review. Later, in Paris, Pound introduced Joyce to Sylvia Beach, the American bookseller and proprietor of Shakespeare and Company in Paris, who was to publish Ulysses in 1922. Ulysses stands, along with The Waste Land, as the pre-eminent modernist text, and the most influential novel of the twentieth century—an “impassioned meditation on life,” as Pound wrote to Joyce.
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