Exhibit home > William Carlos Williams and H.D.: The Penn Years
William Carlos Williams and H.D.: The Penn Years
Ezra Pound entered the University of Pennsylvania as a freshman in 1901, at the age of fifteen. He transferred to Hamilton College two years later, due to poor grades, and received his bachelor’s degree there in 1905. He returned to Penn later that year for graduate work in Romance languages and literatures, and earned his master’s degree, but left before finishing his doctoral work. (Before sailing for Venice in 1908, he had a brief stint as an instructor at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.)
While at Penn, he met a fellow student two years his senior who, despite his pursuit of a degree in medicine, was also writing poetry. William Carlos Williams and Pound became friends, united by their poetic ambitions. Later, in London, Pound persuaded Elkin Mathews to publish an early collection of Williams’s, The Tempers, and he reviewed it himself in The New Freewoman (“He makes a bold attempt to express himself directly and convinces one that the emotions expressed are veritably his own…”). They did not always see eye to eye regarding one another’s work and lives—Pound sometimes found Williams’ work parochial, and Williams wrote with sadness and anger in 1945 about Pound’s cruel letters and anti-Semitism (although he defended Pound as a poet)—still, their friendship, with its ups and downs, lasted for decades. Williams’s Paterson is often regarded, along with the Cantos, as one of the greatest long poems of the century.
In his freshman year at Penn, Pound became involved with Hilda Doolittle, the daughter of an astronomy professor. They courted for several years and had an unofficial, sporadic engagement, and he wrote a series of sonnets for her which he bound together as “Hilda’s Book.” In London in 1912, he was soon arranging to have her poetry published in Poetry magazine as “H.D.,” the name under which she would publish for the next fifty years. One of her last works, written in 1958, was a memoir of Pound, End to Torment. “Torment title excellent, but optimistic,” Pound replied when she sent him the manuscript for his comments.
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