chapter  7
22 Pages

Ethnography and Poetic Method

Southwest China, Joseph Rock, and Ezra Pound’s “Drafts & Fragments”
WithJeffrey Mather

This chapter focuses on Ezra Pound’s final poems of the Cantos and their engagement with the ethnographic writings of the explorer Joseph Rock, which were published during the 1930s and 1940s. Ezra Pound’s final section of the Cantos – known as “Drafts & Fragments” – is difficult to interpret given that Pound, probably intentionally, did not offer clear directions on the arrangement and order of the poems before his death. Rather than interpret Rock as a mere source for Pound’s poetic project, as others have, the chapter argues that Rock’s travel writings are themselves significant in terms of their stylistic and aesthetic foregrounding of problems and predicaments inherent in ethnography. While the final cantos are open to various interpretations, an examination of these unconventional ethnographic perspectives suggest ways of working through and rearticulating political and geopolitical imaginaries during a late modernist moment.