I visited the University of Chicago campus, traveling from Kenilworth, a North Shore suburb, to the South Side of Chicago, to talk with my high school hero, Bertrand Russell. He was very nice when I phoned him (when I got out there!) but wasn't able to see me. (I met him several months later at a party out there.) So I went over to the U of C bookstore & found _Culture_, the New Directions 1938 version of _Guide to Kulchur_. I read most of it standing up at the book table. I'd literally never read anything like it. (I must not have noticed the fascism--there was so much exciting and new in it.)
On the way home I stopped by at the main Chicago Public Library & got out several of EP's early books--_Lustra_, _Ripostes_, _Cathay_, and possibly _Personae_, (tho the aforementioned were collected eventually in that book). Whichever they were besides _Lustra_, I read them in a high state of excitement all the way hom on the El & and North Shore Line trains. *That* led me (with some assistance from George Dillon & Peter DeVries, who then were the editor & asst editor of _Poetry, A Magazine of Verse_) to all the rest of the modernists, except for Stein, whom I'd discovered in the Marshall Field's in Evanston several years earlier, and who later became my "favorite" of them all. I first read Pound, then Eliot, then Williams, then . . .
By the spring of 1939, my later senior year in HS, I was giving lectures on modern poetry up thru Auden to our English class.
Before reading Pound, I had only read with pleasure Whitman and Sandburg (who were both very inspiring to me--before coming across them, I disliked poetry). (It was about the same time that I discovered Donne and Herbert and the other 17th-century Metaphysical poets, and the Shakespeare of the Sonnets (I'd read several of the plays, of course.) My first poems were political--antiwar. Having been a New Deal liberal earlier, I was by then a democratic socialist and pacifist. Funny that, like Olson, I had my life changed, especially as a poet, by that fascist --and wonderful poet
Several years later--in 1945--Robert Duncan and I crashed a reading by Williams at the 92nd St YMHA. We talked a little to him & then I wrote to him a little later, among other things, asking how Pound was.
Next thing I got a note from Pound telling me to visit Hubert Creekmore at New Directions, and the latter told me how to write back to Pound. By then I knew about the fascism, but not yet about the radio talks. EP & I exchanged sporadic notes & eventually he was sending me Social Credit and other papers and I was sending him pacifist anarchist papers.(I was by then working with an anarchist pacifist group that put out a paper first called _Why?_ and later _Resistance_. (I did so 1944-54.) Among those who came to our discussion group were Robert Duncan, Paul Goodman, and once Julian Beck and Judith Maline who later began The Living Theatre. Goodman, as well as James Baldwin (once,anonymously) and myself wrote for the paper, but I don't think Duncan did. However, he often came to our discussions (we had first met my first day in NYC--on 12 September 1943, my 21st birthday).
From 1945 to 1955, fascism never came up between Pound & me. I noticed that the Social Credit papers were antisemitic (advertised the Protocols of the Elders of Zion!) but I discounted Pound's fascism as psychosis. He never *said* anything that seemed fascist and he was fine to Jewish friends of mine who visited him at St Elizabeths (tho they sd he got riled up & talked crazy when his Praetorian Guard of Southern boys showed up. He sent me books about Andrew Jackson and a bound copy of the _Democratic Review_ that contained some first publications by Hawthorne and a speech or 2 by Calhoun, which I didnt read, tho that must have been what EP wanted me to read.
From 1945 to 1955, then, we talked (on paper--I never met him) about poetry mainly, tho he did give suggestions for what the anarchist-pacifists shd look into (money, of course). (Those notes from EP seem to have been spirited away.) My attitude was that you don't kick an old men in his paranoia.
But then, after reading several sections of the _Cantos_ that I hadnt read before, I brought the subject up (probably in March 1955). He denied being antisemitic ("I never bitched Louis [Zukofsky] or Mina Loy (Levy) [EP's paren.--near enough--her name was Loewy]!" & of course he hadnt. _Culture/Guide to Kuclchur_ was dedicated to Zukofsky as well as Bunting, (That's where I first saw their names.)
I then pressed EP about the meanings of certain lines in the Cantos. I also mentioned that my father's name until about 1906 or 7 (when he was 18 or 19) was Michalowski. My father changed the name to MacLow, along with the other younger brothers of a group of 8--the older brothers changed it to Michalow-- a little before he came to the US in 1908, when he was 20.
(I didn't know it then, when I mentioned it to Pound, that my father's name was Jacob MacLow when he came to the US. He changed it to Jackson MacLow at the urging of his Baltimore boss. He told me this in the early 1970s, when he'd forgotten he was hiding all his background. It seems that his Southern boss, who liked him a lot, told him: "Jack, I want to call you "Jackson," after our great general, Stonewal Jackson"! & so I became "Jackson MacLow, Jr. when I was born in 1922. (My parents, fleeing their Judaic background, gave me that very unJewish name. I separated the "Mac" from the "Low" & dropped the "Jr." in 7th or 8th grade.)
At first Pound was in denial & defensive, but after I sent him, of all things, a page from Stein's _Wars I Have Seen_ in which she made it plain that though the Rothschilds may have controlled gold in the 19th century (I don't remember whether she mentioned the Sassoons & silver--one of EP's other hobbyhorses), they sure didn't do so now (i.e., in the 40s & earlier decades of the 20th century).
I also mentioned that an acuaintance of mine, Gideon Strauss, who was then the first Israeli consul in New York, when he was given the job of setting up a branch of the Bank of Israel in New York, couldnt find a a single Jewish banker to work with him!
The upshot, of course, was a blow-up. Pound's parting shot to me was "You'll do better as Michaelovitch than MacLow."
So why am I still conflicted about the bastard? I think it's obvious. He wasn't *only* a fascist, and only a relatively small proportion of his poetry is fascist. (Of course this sounds like "she's only a *leetle bit* pregnant.") But could it be that what Pound told Allen Ginsberg when he visited him in Venice--that it was "a stupid suburban prejudice!"--was really what he thought it was? Could THAT have led to supporting Mussiolini & even Hitler?
I think Major Douglas & his Social Credit (a version of money reform that was dripping with antisemitism--not *all* money reformers are antisemites--had as much to do with it as Pound's moving to Italy. (I think he met Douglas before leaving London.) The whole concatenation of Western "populism", the Silver Movement, &c., had as much to do with the turn toward fascism. (Ez had all too much in common with Pat Buchanan! Curiously, there were even hints of interest in Bolshevism around the time of _An Objectivist Anthology_!)
The fact is that Pound could be a fascist and also write wonderful poetry--even *after* turning into a fascist! People are not integral. Certainly Pound wasnt (and neither am I). One is a different person at different times. What I referred to once--much to my surprise--as "the spirit of Ezra Pound" was not that of a fascist. Tho he may have thought that he was writing a populist-reformist anticapitalist-fascist montage when he was writing the Cantos (& I think even this was sporadic) turned out to be a collage poem such as few if any had written before. (Thanks, Charles, for ponting this out, despite the fact that you hate Pound much more than I do!) It certainly *doesnt* "all cohere!" (I won't even do more than mention, Roy Campbell, a fine poet who fought on the Franco side in Spain--more of a monarchist than a fascist-- and wrote not only some fine poems of his own but good translations of Baudelaire and St. John of the Cross. [I even have a faint suspicion that he was one of the first to translate Lorca--but I may be mistaken.]
When I wrote _Words nd Ends from Ez_ in the early 1980s, I was fully aware of Pound's fascism & antisemitism, but I still found much of his poetry--the nonfascist parts--inpiring. I think many of us--especially my younger friends who are called "language poets"--learned a great deal from Pound. The whole process of juxtaposing disparate elements within the space (in all senses) of a poem was given to us primarily by him and his b^ete noir Stein! How he'd gnash at that sentence!
I think the contributions of the dadaists & surrealists to this kind of poem-construction were minor compared to those of Pound. & he taught many *different* groups of poets--not only the imagists, the objectivists, and the projectivists--new ways of making poems and of making *verse*. It's incredible when one thinks of the lineages of poem-makers descending from EP! (Think, for instance, of Pound-Olson-Duncan . . . !) Think of all the ears he taught to hear (*helped* teach--remember how many of us learned as much or more from Stein--& also, in my case, in approaching hearing and the putting together of disparate things, Cage--especially his music of the early 1950s).
Would he have been as great a teacher--even to those of us who came to reject as much as we accepted--if he'd not have been such a fucking authoritarian? Probably for some--but that authority thing is what often drives teachers--good & bad.
One cannot obliterate Pound because he was in so many ways a fascist (in so many ways, he wasnt!) or Heidegger because he was for a very short time a Nazi (for a much much shorter a time than Pound was a fascist). I've recently learned that not only Arendt but also Celan! visited Heidegger in his late years. We cannot be totalists about poets and philosophers any more than we can be about society. Like Whitman, we all contain multitudes.
The way I chose in the early 80s was to read through the Cantos by a deterministic (nonchance) nonintentional method--the "diastic reading-through text-selection method"-- which gleaned whole words & "ends" of words--everything from the last letter of a word to all the letters except the first--that successively had the letters of "Ezra Pound" in corresponding places (e.g., E'z and P's in the first place, Z's & O's in the second place etc). I spelled out the name diastically over and over until I found no more z's. (Thus the last section of the poem is a silence.) I tried to follow this method out exactly. But of course I made mistakes.
Just as Pound projected a great anticapitalist montage, I attempted to write a completely deterministic nonintentional work by reading through _The Cantos_ to select words & ends "diastically". But chance intervened in the shape of mistakes. Luckily, I decided long ago, to accept my own mistakes (tho not others' typos!) once a poem is in print. I accept the fact that _Words nd Ends from Ez_ is a partially deterministc poem modified by completely unintended chance interventions (uncaught mistakes). I also accept the fact that others, such as Charles, find it valuable despite its deviations from its intent. (A curious word to use for the project of writing a deterministic *nonintentional* work!)
I've gone on much too long already. Forgive me, fellow polisters!