Ezra Pound’s literary network


Ezra Pound exerted a monumental influence on the development of modernism through small literary journals, “little magazines”, that existed to promote appreciation of literature and the arts. Pound was the consummate networker, a skill he used to advance the careers of others more than his own. Scholarship on Pound as a literary impresario focuses on his involvement with early 20th century publications such as The English ReviewThe Little ReviewPoetry and others. Likewise, Pound’s influence on the careers of James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and William Butler Yeats are well documented. The incredible extent of Pound’s literary network has never been fully mapped. Likewise, all fiction and poetry produced today is sustained through a connection of writers, editors, and publishing outlets.

Only recently has the Pound connection to W&L been rediscovered through letters between Pound and Tom Carter, the editor of volumes 2 through 4 of Shenandoah. At that time, 1951-1953, the journal was a student-run publication and Carter started his role of editor at age 19. (The previous editor was Tom Wolfe, W&L class of ’51.) The Carter/Pound correspondence continued for more than a decade. The letters document that Pound continued his mentoring of emerging writers and literary publications throughout the 1950s while confined to the mental hospital. The letters from Pound reveal lucid thoughts but with the same erratic punctuation and phrasing that his correspondence always has shown. Throughout the letters Pound, in his colorful manner, advises the young editor and aspiring writer to seek out his contemporaries in an ongoing dialogue about literature and publishing.

Tom Carter and Ezra Pound had planned to start their own journal after Carter left Shenandoah (due to graduating and having to hand the editorship over to another student). Lack of funding and Carter’s ongoing health problems prevented the Carter/Pound publishing endeavor. Pound’s letters to Carter have been called an instruction manual on starting a literary journal. If the two men lived today their collaboration undoubtedly would have launched an online journal. Literary journals, particularly those of the online variety, are started no longer by universities but by individuals passionate about literature. The contemporary little magazines continues as the dominant sources of new writings. The Council of Literary Magazines and Publishers, which promotes independent literary publishing, has a membership today of nearly 500 literary magazines and presses. Literary publishing is not merely literary history but a vibrant and struggling part of our global culture.

How do we?

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How do we support the emergence of new voices in literature?

This is a project in literary history only in so far as it unveils lessons about publishing that can be used to understand our current era. While my research agenda ostensibly examines the networks within literary publishing through the evolution of little magazines during the 20th century, I do so with a primary interest towards the present day.