8 Pages


Pound's acute sense of the past makes his place in literary history somewhat paradoxical: the prime mover of modernism as self-professed traditionalist. In 77ze Pisan Cantos he claims it was not vanity, usefully thought of as 'empty exercise' in this context, 'To have gathered from the air a live tradition' (CA.N, p. 536). To the extent that Pound was responsible for, at the very least, bringing to notice a wide range of otherwise esoteric and neglected material, he may be seen to have invented the tradition he was gathering. His invention was not just in interweaving particular strands of western culture, such as Homeric Greek, Classical Latin, the troubadours, Renaissance Italy, revolutionary America, to name only the most prominent. For someone, however misguidedly, implicated in racist ideology, he was perversely unethnocentric. In her discussion of 77ze Pisan Cantos Kathleen Woodward judges Pound to be the only great modernist poet 'to believe in what we now call ethnopoetics - the coupling of anthropology and poetry, the opening up of other, nonwestern cultural traditions - both as method and metaphor' (Woodward, 1980, p. 92). Certainly, his adoption and celebration of Chinese, African and other cultures bears this out and makes the tradition that Pound gathered a richly diverse one.