Ezra Pound’s manuscript

Ezra Pound, Canto 90 (draft), p. 1 ,1955

One of the most beautiful documents in the archive is the original manuscript to Ezra Pound’s Canto 90 (published in Meanjin vol.14, no. 4, 1955), which Christesen was sent thanks to the influence of Pound’s friend Noel Stock, a Tasmanian born literary critic and poet, who wrote a detailed biography of Pound. By 1955, Pound’s reputation had significantly suffered in America due to his involvement with Benito Mussolini and the Italian fascists during the war, and his subsequent imprisonment in St Elizabeth’s Hospital. There is some evidence that Pound was particularly interested in publishing in Australia, thinking his reputation might not follow him to the Antipodes: ‘Meanjin [is the] best bet as Little Review de ces jours [these days],’ he wrote to e.e. cummings in September 1955.

The manuscript might best be called an original: the Beinecke at Yale also holds another copy among Pound’s papers. But the Christesen archive manuscript bears a unique inscription in Pound’s hand - ‘Can you make a simple alter design?’, written next to a hand-drawn sketch requesting an illustration for his poem. The sketch was not included by Meanjin and does not appear in the official editions of the Cantos (a minor, but not irrelevant detail, possibly reflecting Pound’s original intentions for the poem).

Pound used sticky tape to collage foreign words that he was unable to easily to type on his typewriter. The messiness of this collage gives an explanation for why, when first published in Meanjinthe opening ideogram of Canto 90 (the Chinese character for ‘San Ku’ or ‘council of three’, a governmental body from the fifteenth century) was printed upside down (an editorial mistake which, ironically enough, seems entirely appropriate for Pound’s antipodean Canto).

Pound Canto 90

Ezra Pound, Canto 90 (draft),p. 2, 1955

Pound Canto meanjin

Meanjin Volume XIV  Number 4 1955