|Pound / Cummings: The Correspondence
of Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings
Ed. Barry Ahearn. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996.
Sometime in 1914, S. Foster Damon loaned a copy of Ezra Pound's anthology Des Imagistes to Cummings (Kennedy, Dreams 78-79). Around this time, too, Cummings acquired a copy of Pound's Ripostes (1912, 1913). Both of these volumes contain "The Return," a poem that immediately impressed the younger poet. Even as late as the mid-1950s, Cummings still viewed his early encounter with "The Return" as a breakthrough moment, writing in his notes that the poem "made me(for better or worse)the writer I am today." He was impressed by the poem's modern treatment of a classical subject, but he noted furhter that the "inaudible poem--the visual poem,the poem for not ears but Eye--moved me more" (qtd. in Kennedy 106).
Cummings first met Pound in July of 1921. Two years later, Cummings wrote to his mother: "I have for some years been an admirer of Pound's poetry:personally,he sometimes gives me a FatherComplex" (Selected Letters 104). In that same year, Scofield Thayer, no great fan of Pound's poetry, reported in a letter that "Cummings . . . considers Pound mad— 'getting more Idaho day by day' " (qtd. in Sutton 264). As Pound grew more fanatical, Cummings always tried to separate the failings of the man from the virtues of the poet. In 1957 Cummings wrote to Charles Norman that "not EEC but EP is the authentic 'innovator';the true trailblazer of an epoch . . . --nor shall I ever forget the thrill I experienced on first reading "The Return' " (Selected Letters 241). After meeting the raving Pound on his visit to the U.S. in 1939, Cummings wrote in his notebooks that there seemed to be two Pounds: the poet "whom M[arion] and I met in Paris;to whom Scofield Thayer years before that,introduced me—VS an incoherent bore . . . from whom,after many efforts to make him human,M & I ran away(leaving NY)" (quoted in Sawyer-Lauçanno 464). Cummings' later letters to Pound are often slyly subversive attempts to make Pound human. (See Webster 53-66.)
Mr. Cummings, thinking on the question of belief, said, as he wandered about his room: "Pound once wrote a magnificent thing. 'What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it'."The interview is reprinted in Breit's The Writer Observed.
on him they shatIn letter 33 (28 April 1935) Pound asserts that he is the subject of the poem (cf. P/C 65). On the next page he asks for permission to reprint the two lines in Charles Norman's Ezra Pound, but I cannot find them quoted in that book. In his reply, Cummings does not refer to Pound's permission request.
they shat encore
he laughed and spat
(this life could dare
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