BK. Ezra Pound

76. “Ezra Pound Speaking”: Radio Speeches of World War II. Edited by Leonard W. Doob. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1978.

Texts Pound prepared to be read on Rome Radio, and which according to Doob’s introduction Pound himself at the time of composition intended for collection and publication. The work is not fully indexed, though an appendix notes thirty references to Japan. Most of these are passing remarks about contemporary political issues.

a. #2 (26 October 1941): ‘Books and Music’. By late 1941 Pound was cut off from most sources of English-language writing, including most of his European and American correspondents, and even mail from Japan was slow to reach him in Rapallo. Here he announces that he is not ‘goin’ into a pronounced . . . melancholy fer the extinction of all human intercourse’, but mentions several sources of information he misses, including ‘Kitasono’s Japanese magazine’, a reference to VOU (see 46 and D29).

b. #6 (29 January 1942): ‘On Resuming’. Pound rails against the ‘fetid ignorance’ of a BBC commentator who had suggested (according to Pound) that the Japanese before the war had only recently ‘emerged from barbarism’, and offers his own view of the traditions of Japan, urging ‘a glance at Japanese sword guards, a glance at Jimmy Whistler’s remarks about Hokusai, or . . . a familiarity with Awoi no Ue [22], Kumasaka [17g], Nishikigi [8], or [another nô play] Funa-Benkei. These are Japanese classical plays, and would convince any man with more sense than a pea hen, of the degree of Japanese civilization; let alone what they conserved when China was, as Fenollosa tells us, incapable of preserving her own cultural heritage’. Pound elsewhere allies his interest in Japan with her preservation of the arts of China, in 45f, 53, and 82b6.

c. #44 (4 June 1942): ‘As to Pathology and Psychoses’. Pound addresses the United States about her ‘ignorance’ of, among other subjects, the traditions of Japan: ‘If you had read as much of the Fenollosa papers as I got into print about 1917, you would not have underestimated Japan. You would not have let the grossest and most blatant asses in the United States tell you such imbecilities. And you would not have swallowed the insulting lies of the British papers on the subject. Some of the lowest London dirt, splashing military titles, was concerned with feeding you guff on the subject of Nippon, and the utter squalor of the public mind . . . of Washington was a close second or first’.

d. #100 (20 June 1943): ‘On Brains or Medulla’. Pound refers to his Japan Times article proposing a ‘tri-lingual’ system for world communication utilising English, Italian, and ‘ideogram’ with Japanese pronunciation (see 49), and makes the same proposal here, in a broadcast specifically intended for the United Kingdom. The text is based on that recorded by the U. S. Federal Communications Commission, since no manuscript has been found.

e. #112 (1941): ‘March Arrivals’. Pound tries seriously to persuade the American public that ‘peace in the Pacific’ may be gained—and the peoples of both Japan and the United States immeasurably benefited—if the U. S. will ‘give Guam to the Japanese in return for one set of color and sound films of the 300 best Noh dramas’ (see also 49). He is aware that some of his listeners will ‘think [he is] joking about this Guam proposition’, but twice he assures in simple declarative terms that he is not, and proceeds to a description of the nô among his most honorific: ‘half a century ago an American professor with a Spanish name [Fenollosa] went over to Japan and brought back the news and some notes on a number of remarkable plays, said to have been kept unchanged in their stage tradition for 4 or 5 centuries. Centuries. And after a lapse of years W. B. Yeats said it was the form he had been seeking all his life in an attempt to write drama that should be also high poetry. . . . In the play Kagekiyo [21a] we have, I think, the soul of Japan. As its delicacy in Nishikigi [8], and its epos in Kagekiyo, which contains as far as my very imperfect knowledge extends, the one truly Homeric passage in such of their literature as Fenollosa brought back to us. . . . That is the JAPAN we WANT [upper case Pound’s]. That is the Japan that could mean something to us, and be in the high sense of some use to us’. He continues with reference to the music and dance of the nô, and recalls in this context an evening of a quarter of a century earlier: ‘I have never seen anything that could touch the movement of the tennin in the Hagoromo dance that Tami Koumé [Kume, Ap] did for me in his London studio 25 years ago. And as to music, a couple of bars of modern Japanese film play, after 25 years, hit me straight in the midriff. You couldn’t mistake it for any one music in the wide and blinkin’ world’. Includes in addition to these comments reference to Kumasaka (17g), Umewaka Minoru (Ap), the film of Aoi no Ue (22) Pound saw in Washington in 1939 (see 49), and a further reference to Yeats and the nô: the Americans have land and wealth, Pound writes in closing, but nothing like these classical plays, for the plays of Yeats are not the nô, but only ‘more or less in the form of the Japanese non-libretti’. The occasion of Pound’s remarks is the arrival in Rome of the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Matsuoka Yôsuke (1880-1946; see 82d).





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