WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORD - THIS SECTION IS DEDICATED TO THE ART OF WORDSMITHING AND RECITATION.
To begin this section I have chosen the modern poet who has indeed produced the greatest effect on my life, becoming a singular influence for me. The poet and all-round thinker/writer who may be the most important of the 20th century and perhaps of what will be the whole current epoch - at least in the English language.
ezra pound (1885-1972)
American Poet Ezra Pound – perhaps most well known for his voluminous Cantos – was a revolutionary literary and cultural figure whose scope of interests was downright renaissance in proportions. His poetry is characterised by its driving rhythm, the vivaciousness of its imagery and a density of allusion that demonstrates his remarkable range of knowledge. Music, languages, politics, economics, and of course the whole lineage of world literature: to become acquainted with his oeuvre is to become acquainted with all these fields.
A staunch advocate of culture in general, Pound is unique in his colossal efforts to assist other writers and upcoming unknowns. Many if not most of the great names of the 20th century would perhaps be unknown if it were not for Pound’s support - and unparalleled editing skills. James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, E.E. Cummings and Robert Frost are perhaps more familiar names for us now, but they were all proteges of Pound, who ruthlessly edited their work and pushed it through to publication.
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Pound's unparalleled brilliance as a poet were applied with equal diligence to translations, which are largely considered to be poetical masterpieces in themselves. His translations of the complete works of Confucius are among the finest in English to this day.
A great scavenger, he drew inspiration from diverse poetic traditions, many of which he dug out of obscurity: Chinese, Greek, Egyptian, Troubadour, Italian Renaissance, Old English… He managed to translate many of these lost gems – a remarkable task for a man who had not mastered many of the languages. He proceeded with the help multiple manuscripts in multiple languages – painstakingly hunted down and acquired – and with the sharp eye and discriminating ear of the poet. His translations are often preferred to more scholarly literal translations as he managed to capture the spirit, character and rhythm of the original, giving readers the longed-for ‘flavour’ so often lost in translation.
Pound was also a central figure in the birth of historical performance practice and a renewed interest in Medieval and Renaissance music which has revolutionized musical education and performance in the last decades. He did a great deal to bring the Troubadours – the medieval bard-poets who penned the first vernacular poems in Western Europe – into critical light and general interest. Along with musical historian, instrument builder and accomplished performer Arnold Dolmetsch, he was devoted to the revival of early music and uncovering previously unknown composers. As we are indebted to Mendelssohn for the rediscovery of J.S. Bach, the works of Antonio Vivaldi would likely not be known to us today without the determined effort of Pound and his wife Olga Rudge, an accomplished violinist. It is also worth noting that his output as a music critic fills a whole 500 pages!
Amidst his considerable contributions to culture and art, arguably his work with other writers as mentor and editor has been one of his most lasting accomplishments. Many of the poets whom he discovered, assisted and propelled into publication are today more famous than Pound himself: James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Frost (to name a few). The edited manuscripts of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem The Wasteland show ruthlessness in cutting out any indulgent or extraneous passages, resulting in an infinitely superior work. Much can be learned from Pound’s essays on reading and writing, which shed some light on this process.
Having spent most of his life in Europe, around the time of the Second World War, Pound’s controversial politics and uncompromising honesty landed him in dangerous circumstances. Arrested and imprisoned without a fair trial, Pound spent 12 years in dismal confinement. Even this did not manage to silence him, and he continued writing, often under great mental duress, throughout his imprisonment. Many great literati made the pilgrimage to visit him during this time. He emerged greatly shaken from his confinement and retired to South Tirol, Italy, living with his well-married daughter in her castle estate until his death. His funeral did justice to his status as Poet: four Venetian gondoliers clad in black carried him to the island cemetery of Isola di San Michelle, where he rests of the company of the elite dead. His legacy as a poet, writer and thinker grows with each passing year, as his melopoeia continues to fascinate each succeeding generation.