Thursday, November 04, 2010

Pound, re-selected

In my department mailbox today two new New Directions Ezra Pound volumes, New Selected Poems and Translations, edited by Richard Sieburth, and ABC of Reading. It's nice to see that Pound is finally getting edited. I grew up on the crunky old black-&-white ND volumes, with their sometimes erratic typefaces & generally awful cover designs. No notes, often no indices, sometimes eccentric tables of contents. But God bless James Laughlin for putting & keeping the stuff in print!

But it is good, as I say, to see that Pound's work is finally getting presented in a from that doesn't make one blush when assigning the book to class. I guess the first big step in the right direction was the 1990 reissue of Personae (ed. A. Walton Litz & Lea Bachler), which cleaned up the texts somewhat & added the 3 "ur-Cantos." Then New Directions issued, in 2003, a single-volume paperback of the Pisan Cantos; the poems themselves are simply offset from the big collected Cantos volume, but they have copious back-of-the-book annotations by Sieburth, who the same year published his massive Library of America version of Pound's Poems and Translations, which has become the industry standard for well-edited Pound.

I suspect New Directions' flurry of publishing activity this year might have something to do with the passing out of copyright of much of EP's early work, which opens the door to such projects as Ira Nadel's Penguin Early Writings, and even the Dover "Thrift Edition" of his Early Poems. At any rate, I haven't spent much time with the New Selected Poems and Translations, except to note that in replacing the dear old Selected Poems he's weeded out a number of the lame early poems & added a number of later Cantos; appendices include the original introduction by TS Eliot and a scrapped intro by John Berryman; and there are lashings of notes at the end, no doubt a welcome addition for Pound newbies and college students alike.

The new ABC of Reading, alas, is barely new at all. There are three additions: a well-turned introduction by Michael Dirda, an index of proper names (THANK YOU, NEW DIRECTIONS!), and an eye-popping magenta hue to the cover, replacing the dour old black. The text itself is still in the same gritty, spectacularly ugly typeface, with the ample margins indicating that this was a mass-market sized paperback blown up to trade size. And there's one loss: on page 9 of the old edition, there was a paragraph entitled simply "ABC"; that's been lost, replaced with a perfectly useless title page. For those who're coming to the ABC for the first time, here's what you've missed:
Or gradus ad Parnassum, for those who
might like to learn. The book is not
addressed to those who have arrived at full
knowledge of the subject without knowing
the facts.
A paragraph I realize that I know by heart, & whose implications I've tried to take to heart.


E. M. Selinger said...

Eagerly awaiting, Mark, your sense of which might work better in class: the new Selected or the Nadel / Penguin volume.

(At the moment, the way my classes are going, I might skip the book entirely and have them read Kenner. Get 'em hooked to read the actual texts on their own.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tip on dropped text page 9 -- Uncaught printer's error which will be fixed on reprint-- cheers,