Pound/Williams: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams

Pound/Williams: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams

Pound/Williams: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams

Pound/Williams: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams

Synopsis

Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, two towering figures in American poetry, began their lifelong, and often contentious, friendship as students at the University of Pennsylvania. Their correspondence ran from 1907, the year Pound took up his virtually permanent residence in Europe, until Williams' death in 1963. The letters contribute an unparalleled documentary record of modern culture - a wealth of information about the lives and works of the two poets themselves; the literary and political movements in which they became involved and the impact of public events upon the arts; the activities of other writers and artists; and the world of small presses and little magazines that nourished the growth of modernism. Pound/Williams contains 169 letters selected from the poets' surviving correspondence, each letter reproduced in full and accompanied by explanatory notes. Historical introductions place each of the live chronological groupings of letters into context, and a biographical glossary identifies persons prominently mentioned.

Excerpt

The correspondence of Ezra Pound (1885-1972) and William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) began in 1907 and continued until 1963. It provides an unparalleled documentary record of developments in modern literature and culture. It is also a tribute to the enduring friendship of two towering figures in American poetry.

Pound and Williams took part in a far-reaching artistic revolution during the first half of the twentieth century. Their letters contain a wealth of information about their own lives and works. We learn a great deal, as well, about the activities of other important writers and artists of the time. the correspondence vividly evokes the yeasty milieu of small presses and little magazines, of shifting groups and short-lived movements, that sustained experimental modern literature in Europe and the United States.

The letters also register the impact of larger public events upon the lives of artists in this century. During the 1930s, the economic and political crisis that led to the Spanish Civil War and World War II strained the friendship of Pound and Williams to the breaking point. Pound became an advocate of Benito Mussolini and Italian fascism, whereas Williams was a left-leaning Democrat, sympathetic to socialism and communism. After 1945, both poets were much in the public eye. With Pound incarcerated in a Washington mental hospital on charges of treason, the award to him in 1949 of the Bollingen Prize provoked a major national controversy. Williams also received several prestigious awards, and his political allegiances came under scrutiny when he was subjected to a loyalty investigation during the McCarthy era.

Through these vicissitudes, the friendship of the two men was remarkably resilient. Forged during their impressionable undergraduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, it lasted for the rest of their lives, surviving geographical separation, infrequent meetings, and numerous quarrels. Pound left for Europe in 1908; there he led the Bohemian life of a full-time artist in glamorous surroundings, and espoused a cosmopolitan ideal of culture. Williams stayed in New Jersey; there he led the workaholic life of a full-time obstetrician and pediatrician, and espoused a local, distinctively American ideal of culture. Pound once described them as complementary selves, "the two halves of what might have made a fairly decent poet" (September 11, 1920).

For more than three decades, each was the other's window upon a relinquished . . .

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