Ezuversity and Pound's Mermaid
In honor of Ezra Pound’s birth, on this day, 132 years ago, we share two musings by our publisher, James Laughlin, who started New Directions on Pound’s advice in 1936.
Ezuversity by James Laughlin
When I was twenty I had the good luck to attend for two terms of several months each what Pound liked to call the “Ezuversity” in Rapallo. He and his wife were living then in the fifth floor rooftop flat which looked out over the Tigullian Bay. The building was on the seafront but one entered at number 12 in the narrow old Via Marsala. Back of the big terrace there were four or five small rooms furnished with the simplicity Pound always preferred: many of the chairs and tables he had constructed himself from odd bits of wood picked up at the local carpentry-shops. The handsome Gaudier sculptures were there, small but extremely fine pieces, and among the paintings a remarkable Max Ernst, a beautiful abstraction of two white conch shells. In Dorothy Pound’s sitting room there were Wyndham Lewis colored drawings and several of her own very talented sketches. Books along the lower part of the walls on homemade shelves. But not as many as one would have expected. Pound was always very selective and got rid of those that would not qualify for “the canon” (my term). Of his own workplace, the little study between the entryway and Mrs. Pound’s sitting room, I remember the ordering of what would otherwise have been a clutter. Current filing of worldwide correspondence was done on spindles or in clip folders ranged along the wall behind his desk chair. Pencils and scissors hung on strings from the ceiling so they could not get lost in the papers on his desk. (Pound’s postage bill must certainly have been his largest expense at that time.)
I was troubled because at all the conferences there were almost no undergraduates. Just Poundians and curious oldsters. Are the galloping termites driving them away or do the cantos just not speak to them? I recall that Eliot took a big nosedive at one point with the young. Will Helen Vendler convince them that Jimmy Merrill is better than Duncan?
…DON’T take your chewing gum and candy money to pay me. What, NO! The aged shd. Not sponge on the next generation…I think you better stick with Hawvud a bit longer. I mean, don’t leave the country prematurely/you might have to return later in life. You were??? 18?? Last summer…
(Ezra Pound to James Laughlin)
The Sixth Mermaid by James Laughlin
Not something we should chat with the innocent students about, but this question came to me as I looked it up for a note for my “roaring sea” tag poem, where I won’t put it either.
Who was the sixth mermaid?
This reads pretty clear to me, that after behaving himself for some years after his marriage to Dorothy, Ezra got tired of that frigidity (DP once expressed to me sentiments similar to those of my revered mother, who didn’t care for the “unpleasant” side of marriage) and took off after the sirens.
1. Would be Bridget Patmore, to whom Dorothy always referred as that “dreadful woman.”
2. Would be Bride Scratton who killed herself for abandoned love of Ez.
3. Would be Iris Barry, to whom he wrote some fine instructional letters, but she fled to NYC and became a functionary of film at the MoMA.
4. Could be Agnes Bedford, W. Lewis’ pal, who later helped Ez score his operas.
5. Would doubtlessly be Nancy Cunard (or her ma, or both together) who was all over the lot, and must have been a real nut but is kindly mentioned in the cantos, and our boy WCW may , or may not, have gotten his finger caught in that cookie jar.
6. ??? But it may come to me…