Friday, September 27, 2019


A Very Boyish Fellow and an Incurable Provincial

Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), "Ezra Pound's Patchwork," The Shores of Light: A Literary Chronicle of the Twenties and Thirties (1952; rpt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979), pp. 44-48 (at 45-46):
For, in spite of the parade of cultures and the pontifical pretenses which have terrified the more naïve of the American intelligentsia, Ezra Pound is really at heart a very boyish fellow and an incurable provincial. It is true that he was driven to Europe by a thirst for romance and color that he could scarcely have satisfied in America, but he took to Europe the simple faith and the pure enthusiasms of his native Idaho. And he took, also, the fresh cavalier spirit which remains his greatest charm. His early poems were full of gallant and simply felt emotions; but they were already tainted with an obsession which has cursed him all his life: the frantic desire to flee as far from Idaho as possible, the itching to prove to Main Street that he has extirpated it from his soul. That he has remained unsuccessful to this day is sufficiently attested by the fact that he still spends so much time insulting the United States. He seeks refuge in bawdiness, in obscurity, in recondite erudition, in the most extravagant of the modern movements, such as dadaism and vorticism, but he can never slough off his self-consciousness at having settled in the Sacred Grove. "Look at me!" he says in effect to his compatriots at home. "See how cultured and cosmopolitan I have become since I've left America—how different from you over there! I'll bet there's not a man among you who knows about Pratinas and Gaudier-Brzeska. I can read half a dozen languages! I am a friend of Francis Picabia!"

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