MT: broadsheet: lithograph on paper glazed within bronze frame (38x51 / F:41x54x2)
ED: author's proof
TX: watermarked at lower right <EZRA POUND-CANTOS [three mountains logo]>
LC: ACG - Deree College, Arts & Sciences Department, Office #532 of Dr. Haris Vlavianos
CM: This broadsheet seems to be an author's proof for Ezra Pound's A Draft of XVI Cantos published by Three Mountains Press in Paris in 1925. Its pages were made into a book by Henry Strater (his inititals appear on the titlepage) by 1924, and published by William Bird the next year. A Draft of XVI Cantos was a limited deluxe edition of ninety folio copies; five on Japan paper, fifteen on Whatman, and the remaining seventy on Roma paper with a special Ezra Pound watermark. The story behind this book begins in Paris early in the 1920s, when Ernest Hemingway introduced the American journalist William Augustus Bird (USA 1888-1963) to Pound. Bird, who ran the Three Mountains Press, gave Pound the position of editor from 1923. A Draft of XVI Cantos, the first separate volume collecting Pound's series of Cantos, was the most spectacular production of Three Mountains Press. Pound wrote to Kate Buss in May 1923 that it would be of "UNRIVALLED magnificence, one of the real bits of printing; modern book to be jacked up to something near level of medieval mss. No Kelmscott mess of illegibility." Pound moved from Paris to Rapallo, Italy, in 1923 while A Draft of XVI Cantos was still in press, making it probable for this proof to date anytime between that year and 1925.
Pound had been discussing the possibility of writing a long poem since around 1905, but work did not begin until sometime between 1912 and 1917, when the initial versions of the first three cantos of the proposed 'poem of some length' were published in Poetry (Chicago). In this version, the poem began very much as a direct address by the poet, not to the reader but to the ghost of Robert Browning. Pound came to realise that this need to be a controlling narrative voice was working against the revolutionary intent of his own poetic position, and these first three ur-cantos were soon abandoned and a new starting point sought. The answer was a Latin version (1538) of Homer's Odyssey by the Renaissance scholar Andreas Divus, of which Pound made his peculiar version in English. Pound's verse is in accordance with ' Imagism ', a literary movement launched by Anglo-American poets early in the twentieth century that advocated the use of free verse, common speech patterns, and clear concrete images as a reaction to Victorian sentimentalism. The resulting A Draft of XVI Cantos was a publication event signaling the beginning of a new literary era. "The age demands a gathering of fragments to shore up the ruins of European culture, and Pound provides it, publishing the mosaic in Paris..." [MICHAEL THURSTON Making Something Happen 2001 University of North Carolina Press].
The red illuminated capitals of the opening texts of every Canto are rendered with illustrations from scenes referenced in the poem. Cantos IV and VI, essentially based in the Mediterranean, draw heavily on classical mythology, Renaissance history, the world of the troubadours, Sappho's poetry, and other episodes, to create a textual collage saturated with neoplatonist images of clarity and light.
[Megakles Rogakos 05/2005]
STALLARD FLORY, WENDY Dr. Ezra Pound and the Cantos 1980