Ezra Pound: Poet I – The Young Genius, 1885–1920 by A David Moody - review by Peter McDonald

Peter McDonald

Red-Headed Rebel

Ezra Pound: Poet I – The Young Genius, 1885–1920


Oxford University Press 544pp £25 order from our bookshop

One of modern poetry’s great symbolic and prophetic moments came in 1912, when Ezra Pound challenged Lascelles Abercrombie to a duel. Upset at the literary shenanigans of younger writers (as well as some old enough to have known better), Abercrombie had called for a return to Wordsworth; incensed, Pound issued his challenge, announcing to his intended victim that ‘Stupidity carried beyond a certain point becomes a public menace.’ Offered a choice of weapons (and knowing that Pound was a practised, if eccentric, fencer), Abercrombie suggested that the two poets should bombard each other with unsold copies of their own books. As an image for what was to come – the struggle between tradition and innovation in the context of an enduring lack of public interest in poetry of either shade – the comic resolution of this quarrel could hardly be bettered.

Pound was, of course, as self-consciously outrageous a figure as Abercrombie and his like were self-consciously of the literary establishment: everyone was committed to playing their particular part. But Pound’s role was more original and more startling than most. Crashing into literary London in 1908, Pound was a one-man Renaissance,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter