It’s the birthday of Ezra Pound, born 125 years ago today in Hailey, Idaho (1885). He was known as “the poet’s poet” because he was so generous about promoting the work of other writers — including James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, D.H. Lawrence, Marianne Moore, Hilda Doolittle, and T.S. Eliot.
In his early 20s, he started teaching literature at a small college in the Midwest, until he caused a scandal by allowing a stranded vaudeville actress to sleep over at his place and was fired. But the college gave him the rest of his year’s salary, and he headed off to Europe with it.
He believed that Yeats was the greatest poet writing in English, and he was determined to make himself an apprentice to Yeats. He found him, befriended him, worked as his secretary, and later, he married the daughter of Yeats’s former lover.
In 1914, Pound met T.S. Eliot, and he campaigned to get “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” published in Poetry magazine. He’s sometimes credited as “discovering” Eliot because of this.
He spent most of his writing life on The Cantos, a modern epic. There are 109 completed Cantos; the first of The Cantos begins:
“And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship.
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
Bore us out onward with bellying canvas
Circe’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.”
/ Garrison Keillor, The Writers’ Almanac