BK. Ezra Pound


82. Ezra Pound and Japan: Letters and Essays. Edited by Sanehide Kodama. Reading Ridge, Conn.: Black Swan, 1987. Reprint, 1996.

Collects Pound’s extant letters to and from Japanese correspondents from 1911 to 1968, his contributions to Japanese periodicals, and related supplementary materials. Reprints ‘Vou Club’ (46), all of Pound’s contributions to the Japan Times and Mail and Japan Times Weekly, including 49-51 and 53-55, and two letters previously excerpted by Paige (59h-i). Noted below are only those materials published here for the first time that are directly related to Pound’s understanding of Japanese subjects or use of Japanese materials. See also 176 for notes about secondary material included in the work, including letters to Pound from Japanese correspondents.

a. ‘Pound’s Early Contacts with Japan: 1911-1923’. Collects three letters of Noguchi to Pound (1911, 1917, see also D15a), the noted letter from Pound to Noguchi, four letters from Mary Fenollosa to Pound (1913, 1916), one from Mary Fenollosa to Dorothy Pound (1916), three from Itô to Pound (1915, 1916, 1920), and seventeen from Kume to Pound (1916-23). Kodama suggests that many of Pound’s responses to letters printed here must have been lost in the 1923 Kanto earthquake and the bombing of Tokyo during the Second World War. The letters to and from Kume, especially, reveal a warm friendship.

1. To Noguchi, 2 September 1911. Pound thanks Noguchi for the gift of his book The Pilgrimage (D15e4) and comments about his own lack of knowledge of Japan: ‘Of your country I know almost nothing’, but ‘surely if the east & the west are ever to understand each other that understanding must come slowly & come first through the arts’. The letter appears as well in Atsumi, who mentions but does not print other letters from Pound to Noguchi, including one in which In a Station of the Metro (3) appears under the title ‘To Yone Noguchi’ (see D15e9, p. 15).

b. ‘Pound/Kitasono Correspondence: 1936-1966’. Collects fifty letters from Pound to Kitasono, thirty-four from Kitasono to Pound, and several others related to their friendship, including Pound’s correspondence with Môri Yasotarô, editor of the Japan Times, and a letter from Oshima Shôtarô (see BL124) to Pound. Unless otherwise noted the letters cited here are from Pound to Kitasono.

1. 12 August 1936. Pound recalls that Yeats ‘was invited to Tokyo university some years ago, but [Pound thinks] . . . declined the invitation’. In fact, Yeats was invited to Japan twice, and seriously considered accepting the offer both times. See BL48i-j, 48s, 52e-f, 63, and 124a1-2.

2. 23 October 1937. Pound continues to think of travelling to Japan (see also 59i, 82e1, 84, and 176f-g), and inquires about the possibility of publishing his ‘news or interpretations of Europe’ in a Japanese English-language paper, noting that this ‘might be a first step toward getting to Tokyo’. See section IV here, ‘Pound’s Contributions to Japanese Periodicals’, for reprints of the articles he contributed in 1939 and 1940 to the Japan Times and Mail as a special correspondent to the paper, a position arranged by Kitasono.

3. 14 May 1938. A letter that demonstrates that Pound is working seriously to learn to read both Japanese and Chinese, though he fears that he ‘[forgets] the ideograms too fast’.

4. 3 March 1939. Pound writes of his ‘nostalgia for Japan’ as a result of seeing a ‘fragment’ of a film that included a segment from a nô play, and mentions for the first time an often-stated wish in his correspondence, that ‘all the Noh plays ought to be filmed/ or at any rate all the music shd/ be recorded on the sound track’ (see also 49). He mentions that ‘it must be 16 years since I heard a note of Noh (Kume and his friend sang to me in Paris) but the instant the Noh . . . sounded I knew it. / It is like no other music’. Includes also a mention that Pound is looking through the ‘Klaptroth translation’ of ‘Nippon O Dai itsi ran’ (see D1c).

5. 28 October 1939. Pound notes that he has met with Dr. Sakanishi Shio, curator of the Japanese section of the Library of Congress, to discuss ‘bilingual editions of Noh plays’. This meeting is mentioned in several of the letters collected here, and recalled by Sakanishi in 134. See also 49.

6. 14 January 1940. Pound repeats a point he made first in A Guide to Kulchur (45f), that early Japanese ‘imitations’ of Chinese poetry are comparable to the ‘latin influence in europe  . . . down even to 1800’.

7. 10 July 1940. Pound writes that the Japan Times ‘is all the printed matter in English that now arrives’ for him in Rapallo. See also 9 below.

8. 25 August 1940. Pound did not understand the gap between traditional Japanese aesthetics and the sensibilities of ‘modern’ Japanese. He writes here that he has visited the Japanese Cultural Relations Bureau in Rome, where he had hoped he might find useful information about the country, but was advised there ‘to get wise to MODERN Japan and not bother with (or stick to) Noh’; the officials he spoke with ‘finally thought that maybe they had heard of’ Kitasono, but ‘couldn’t understand one single word’, and ‘Fenollosa meant nothing to ’em’.

9. 20 October 1940. Pound notes that the Japan Times is his ‘last remaining source of information’ about the United States, and that he has not even been able to learn if James Laughlin has brought out the American edition of Cantos LII-LXXI (see 52), which in fact had appeared on 17 September.

10. To Fosco Maraini, 11 November 1940. Pound urges Maraini, an Italian art historian living in Japan, to meet Kitasono, contending that VOU is ‘the liveliest magazine in the world’.

11. 15 November 1940. Pound responds to a 17 October Japan Times Weekly article by Uenoda Setsuo and Tsukui Tatsuo about the written Japanese language, and argues that while the ideogram is ‘essential to the exposition of certain kinds of thought’, ‘the national defence of Basho and Chikamatsu can [best] be maintained by use of the latin alphabet’; he refers as well to his own study of Japanese: ‘One wd/ learn Japanese more quickly if with each chunk of conversation dictionary offered by the J[apan] T[imes] we could have something worth reading printed bilingually’ (see also 49).

12. 30 December 1940. Pound thanks Kitasono for the gift of Amar Lahiri’s Japan Talks (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1940) and offers passing remarks about Itô and Kume.

13. 31 December 1940. Pound has been reading ‘Lahiri’s book’ (see above) and questions the ‘impression’ it gives that Noguchi and the novelist and painter Mushakoji Saneatsu (1885-1976) were living in Britain or America in 1888 or 1890; he inquires also about G. B. Shaw’s knowledge of the nô: ‘by the way/ WHEN did Bernie Pshaw ever see a Noh play and why did he think he knew what it was driving at?’ Kodama’s note that Shaw ‘saw Itô dance at a London gathering at Lady Ottoline Morrell’s home in 1918’ is off by three years. Itô was in New York by 1918. According to his own recollection the gathering took place in 1915 (see BL94, p. 68), before the advent of his interest in the nô. Shaw was taken to a specially-prepared nô sequence during a brief visit to Japan in 1933, but famously slept through the performance.

14. 25 March 1941. Again Pound insists on the importance of the nô, and of having films of the major plays: ‘We shd/ give you Guam but INSIST on getting Kumasaka and Kagekiyo in return. i.e. INSIST on having 300 Noh plays done properly AND recorded on sound film so as to be available to EDUCATE such amerikn stewdents as are capable of being cultur’d’. Includes an original ‘hokku’: ‘Mediterranean March / Black cat on the quince branch / mousing blossoms’. See 49.

c. ‘Pound’s Post-World War II Contacts With Japan: 1956-1968’. Includes five letters to Pound from his Japanese translator, Iwasaki Ryôzô (1908-76), seven from Pound to Iwasaki, and four related excerpts.

1. To Iwasaki, 28 December 1956. Pound acknowledges that his version of Women of Trachis (61) ‘was due to rereading the Noh translations [24] for collected translations [60]’, and asks Iwasaki to give his regards to ‘the Minoru’, i.e., Umewaka Mansaburô, the grandson and namesake of Umewaka Minoru (Ap), whose photograph on his mantelpiece forty years earlier, Pound writes, ‘lowered the bamboo curtain with Ito and Kume’ (see also 45e).

2. To Iwasaki, 6 September 1957. Pound recalls his love of the nô and friendship with Kume: ‘Hagoromo [13d] is a sacrament. And a glory. Tami Kume danced the tennin part before the Emperor at the age of six. And remembered it in London, where he showed us the movements in 1917 or about then. Later a Tokugawa and some daimyo gave bits of Noh and Kiogen [kyôgen] privately in his studio in Paris. These are things to remember.’ Included in the ‘us’ to whom Kume ‘showed . . . the [nô] movements’ would have been Yeats (see BL94), though Pound probably misremembers the date: it is likely that Pound’s meeting with Kume, and the nô dance, took place in Yeats’s rooms in 1915.

3. To Okada Tomoji, 22 [January or August] 1959. Okada had written to Pound that he was wrong in his assertion (first made in ‘The Classical Stage of Japan’ [17b]) that after Fenollosa’s death in London the Japanese government had ‘sent a warship for his body’. Pound responds that ‘to the best of [his] memory, Mrs. Fenollosa was under the impression that the Government wished to honour E. F. in manner stated’, and even though ‘after nearly half a century’ he ‘can’t be sure Mary Fenollosa made the statement’, Pound knows that he ‘certainly did not invent it’. See Shigehisa (103) for the most thorough account of the subject.

d. Addendum. Pound to Matsuoka Yôsuke, Japanese Ambassador to Rome, 29 March 1941. Pound, identifying himself as ‘Ernest Fenollosa’s literary executor’, suggests that ‘no occidental decently aware of the qualities of your Noh drama can be infected with anti-japanese propaganda’, for men such as Pound ‘would cheerfully give you Guam’ for sound films of the nô, such as the film version of Aoi no Ue [22] that Pound had seen in Washington (see 49). Pound ‘deeply regret[s] that there are not more of us’ who feel this way. See also 76e.

e. Other letters quoted in ‘Notes to Letters’.

1. To Isabel Pound, 1914 (p. 216). Pound writes to his mother of a meeting with Noguchi and suggests an interest in Japan: ‘Yone Noguchi dined with me on Tuesday; interesting littérateur of the second order. Don’t like him so well as Sung, or Coomaraswamy. Still you neednt repeat this, as the acquaintance may grow and there’s no telling when one will want to go to Japan.’ See also D15a.

2. To Iris Barry, 31 October 1939 (p. 225). By this date Pound’s friend Barry was curator of the film archive at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He inquires here if the version of Aoi no Uye (22) he had seen at the Library of Congress is from the MOMA archive, and solicits Barry’s help in his efforts to arrange for the filming of the entire nô canon. See also 49.



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