Ezra Pound: University of Delaware Library.

Prolegomenon

When the poet Donald Hall interviewed Ezra Pound for The Paris Review’s “Writers at Work” series in 1960, Pound said, in response to Hall’s mention that the sculptor Henry Moore had found solace in Pound’s book on the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, “There is no doubt—that I have been some use—to some people." At seventy-five years of age, Pound’s acknowledgement of his influence may have belied some lingering doubts he may have had about his generosity, but those who benefited from it changed the course of literature and the arts in the twentieth century, and Pound played a key role in promoting and helping other artists and writers. Donald Gallup has written that Pound “attempted to give the ‘movement’ more of a focus, perhaps, than it ever actually had, but by sheer force of personality and conviction he effected a revolution which still, a half century later, seems miraculous.” It is the purpose of this exhibition to show the role Pound played in the development of “the movement,” as Gallup termed it, of literary modernism, and in doing so shine a light on a thread which wends its way through sixty years of literature in a century in which literature changed dramatically.

Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast, said of Pound: “Ezra was the most generous writer I have ever known and the most disinterested. He helped poets, painters, sculptors and prose writers that he believed in and he would help anyone whether he believed in them or not if they were in trouble.” Wyndham Lewis said similarly, “In his attitude towards other peoples’ work Pound has been superlatively generous… He does not in the least mind being in service to somebody (as do other people it is usually found) if they have great talent.” Even a brief perusal of the names of the writers Pound championed, from James Joyce and T.S. Eliot to Marianne Moore and Robert Frost, from William Carlos Williams and H.D. (both classmates of Pound’s at the University of Pennsylvania) to Wyndham Lewis and Charles Olson, show Pound’s wide-ranging taste and interests. The anthologies he compiled and magazines he edited (such as Des Imagistes, Active Anthology, BLAST, and The Exile) all served to further the cause of modernism, and his translations from the Provençal, Italian, and ancient Chinese were tremendously influential. In the early days of modernism (a movement he himself spearheaded), Pound was the impresario, seemingly everywhere, promoting writers, editing and publishing, writing his own poems, reviews, and essays, and serving as a guiding light and beacon. Although his years in London and Paris (1908-1923) were the most productive, he remained a figurehead afterwards, and when he was hospitalized at St. Elizabeths hospital in Washington, D.C. after World War II, many young writers made the pilgrimage to visit him, such as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. Upon his return to Italy in 1958, he continued to publish sections from his ongoing opus, The Cantos, and continued to receive young visitors, such as the poet Allen Ginsberg, whose own Beat Generation had been influenced by the modernists writing thirty years earlier.

The University of Delaware Library is pleased to be able to draw upon the recently acquired Pound collection of Robert A. Wilson, noted bookseller, author, publisher, and bibliographer, for this exhibition. Wilson was able, over the course of forty years, to compile a premier collection of books, manuscripts, and other Pound ephemera, and many of the materials displayed are a tribute to his perseverance and collecting eye. By focusing this exhibit on Pound, it is possible to draw on multiple other collections within the University of Delaware Library Special Collections, such as the Louis Henry Cohn Hemingway Collection, the Pagany archives, and strong holdings in Irish literature, twentieth century poetry, modernism, and little magazines.

The exhibition is divided into various sections examining the various aspects of Pound's work. Please click on the links to view each separate section.

Jesse Rossa
Assistant Librarian, Special Collections Department
Exhibition Curator