Academic journal article Chicago Review

Ezra Pound, the Morada, and American Regionalism

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Ezra Pound, the Morada, and American Regionalism

Article excerpt

Ezra Pound has long been seen as the standard bearer, for good or for ill, of modernist cosmopolitanism and internationalism. While scholars have weighed the significance of Pound's interest in reviving a specifically American literary culture, his espousal of ideas and aesthetics adapted from several cultures and movements has been many readers' first and abiding impression of Pound's literary, cultural, and political investments. In "Pound's Places," Peter Nicholls has characterized The Cantos as marked by a "visionary moment where the specific markers of place can be sublated so as to secure a landscape which is typical rather than particular." While Venice and the Tempio in Rimini are described in some detail, Nicholls notes that the landscapes of Italy and Provence are "constantly overlaid by allusions to a composite, mythological landscape which reduce the specificity of particular places." Pound's poetic and political project was not that of a William Carlos Williams, who, in Contact, aimed "to emphasize the local phase of the game of writing," to foster an "indigenous art" in America. Pound is not remembered as a poet of the local.

Yet the work of most modernist poets was more varied, more marked by potentially diverging aesthetics and even politics, than our efforts to describe it might allow. For example, as Robert von Hallberg has shown in "Libertarian Imagism," Donald Davie's oft-quoted pronouncement that "the development from imagism in poetry to fascism in politics is clear and unbroken" is undermined by imagism's "libertarian or antisocialist rather than protofascist" political engagements in the pre-WWI milieu. Indeed, by 1929, Pound was publishing in a most unexpected venue, a left-wing southwestern regionalist periodical, the Morada, published out of Albuquerque, New Mexico by the young Norman Macleod. Pound's attention had shifted, at least momentarily, to magazines that were highly inflected by a movement often seen as virtually antithetical to cosmopolitanism and internationalism--American regionalism. Examining Pound's relationship to the Morada and his focus on regional and even regionalist little magazines of the Southwest provides us an alternative understanding of Pounds literary, political, and even economic aspirations between the two wars. We can find in Pound's flirtation with the cultural and political resources of American regionalism in the late 1920s and early 1930s an American context for his politics--or obsessions--that have still been largely understood in the contexts of European fascism.

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In November 1930, Ezra Pound published a significant article on "Small Magazines" in the English Journal, brought out by the National Council of Teachers of English. Pound celebrated a revolt against the "somnolent" "elder magazines" of the eastern establishment, including the Atlantic, Harpers, Scribner's, and the Century. While praising London magazines such as the the Egoist and the New Age, he focused intensely upon smaller American magazines, beginning with Harriet Monroe's Poetry. Even Eliot's Criterion gets a nod for its Americanness: "If the Criterion is not strictly a magazine 'in the United States,' it emerged definitely from American racial sources." But Pound also struck a note of concern about American letters: "As I see it, 'we' in 1910 wanted to set up civilization in America. By 1920 one wanted to preserve the vestiges or start a new one anywhere that one could."

It should come as little surprise that Pound would seek publications outside the American eastern literary establishment. Early on, the Little Review itself had foregrounded writers from Chicago and other midwestern locations. One could easily hear in Pound's lament in "Small Magazines" a shift away from the American nationalist project toward a defensive postwar expatriatism--one that would lead him not only increasingly away from America, but also away from London (his literary location during the early modernist period) and even Paris. …

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