Friday, March 30, 2012

Strange Bedfellows

If politics makes strange bedfellows, it gets really weird when you add poetry. There is a file in our collection of Robert Frost's correspondence labeled "Pound, Ezra," that contains a record of an astounding literary relationship. It starts with a 1913 letter from Ezra Pound letting Frost know that he has just completed a flattering review of Robert Frost's first book, A Boy's Will, for Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. The subsequent letters show a disintegrating relationship as the two prickly poets go their separate ways, philosophically, stylistically, and politically.

This typo-filled letter from around 1936 appears to be the end of the relationship. Writing from Italy, Pound accuses Frost of "filling up the young on misinformation to relieve your inferiority complex" which puts him "in the swine class." Pound then "candidly" says he "had hitherto considered you a man, not a shit."
But the relationship did not end there. When Pound was being held in St. Elizabeth's Hospital avoiding prosecution for treason after making pro-fascist radio broadcasts from Italy, Frost teamed up with Archibald MacLeish to persuade the Attorney General to release Pound. The "Pound" file contains a letter from Ernest Hemingway to Frost on Pound, and another from T.S. Eliot.  Strange Bedfellows...

We are just about to complete a major reprocessing of our Frost manuscripts that will result in a much more accessible collection. If you want to see the Pound file, ask for MS 1178, Box 15, folder 29.

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