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"The Interwoven Authority of a Drafts & Fragments Text," from A Poem Containing History

The problem of entrusting any edition of The Cantos with the authority necessary to bear the weight of interpretation is an enormous one and may be in evidence no more spectacularly than in the so-called Drafts & Fragments, which apparently ends the poem. That terminal and fractured shore has beckoned many readers, lured there in the certainty that their vision of the poem and Pound's will harmonize in a moment of suspended closure, dedicated to encountering the text of their desire. Not so miraculously, they do, because the Drafts & Fragments text is as much theirs as Pound's, a socially constructed text pushed and pulled by various requests for The Cantos' close that Pound either refused to, or could not, accommodate.

For a number of reasons, the Drafts & Fragments volume is the least authorially sanctioned of any in the poem, and as much the product of readerlv and editorial wishes as of Pound's. As we have seen in other essays here, textual authority in The Cantos scatters far beyond Pound himself; the history of Drafts & Fragments shows even more vividly than the other volumes that this is so. By this I mean that its title was not Pound's creation, its material was not wholly his choice, and its sequence was, at least at two critical locations, decided by others. More importantly, its status as the termination to The Cantos was occasioned neither by Pound's sense of the volume's finishedness nor even by his desire to print it as a record of The Cantos' provisional evolution beyond Canto 109. Instead, its first authorized appearance as a volume in 1968 was generated by external circumstances -- it was the desperate but necessary counterattack on a 1967 pirated edition of poems (crudely printed by the crudely named Fuck You Press) whose preemption of Pound's control of publication will forever stop us from knowing whether he would otherwise have made his last cantos public, and in what form.

The facts concerning the piracy are essentially these: the writer Donald Hall interviewed Pound in Rome early in 1960 for the Paris Review Writers at Work series. Pound had requested that he be paid for the session, and George Plimpton and Hall (editor and poetry editor of the Paris Review respectively), never having paid an interview subject before, decided to purchase some of Pound's new post-Thrones material for publication in the same issue in lieu of changing their policy. Pound gave Hall a collection of cantos numbered 110 to 116, which he had written in 1959, from which Hall was to select those that "particularly relate to the interview."1 Hall retyped and returned this collection of cantos; Pound edited from that clean version, and sent a modified second collection to Hall a short time later.

During the process of typing clean copies of these two collections that he received from Pound in the spring of 1960, Hall made two carbons of each page.2 Shorily thereafter, Hall lent a student (Tom Clark, who was writing an honors thesis on The Cantos' structure) his own copies of the second set of typescripts, which were then retyped by a friend of Clark's, Robert Howell, and a carbon made, which remained in Clark's possession. From 1963 to 1967 Clark lived in England, studying Pound's poetry at Cambridge. He returned to the United States in 1967 and while in New York City "bumped into Ed Sanders while walking down St. Marks Place, between 2nd and 3rd Ayes. . . . Sanders said, as I recall, 'Got any manuscripts we can instantly freak into print?' It was a fairly casual question. Sanders was a zealous and aggressive underground publisher; I was poetry editor of the 'Paris Review,' and as such, usually had various manuscripts in hand."3

The Howell version of the second set of Hall typescripts was retyped on Gestetner paper, mimeographed on a machine in Sanders's apartment on Avenue A (the "secret location in the lower east side" of the edition's cover), with three hundred copies produced. Sanders, a student of classical languages, added the Greek words in longhand, as well as those Chinese ideograms that he could decipher and reproduce. The complete process of publication took only a few days: most of the copies were sold ("at a high price" recalls Laughlin) to Bob Wilson of the Phoenix Bookshop in New York, while the rest were shared by Sanders and Clark and distributed to friends. Hence the resulting edition, Cantos 110-116: Ezra Pound, is a copy of a copy of the second correspondence with Hall. Accidental changes do exist between the Hall text and the pirated volume, but, except for a couple of visual misreadings in Canto 110,4 no substantive errors were introduced into the edition.

Laughlin first saw it a short time after its release in the fall of that year and immediately invited Sanders to the Russian Tea Room, where he treated his guest to a piece of his mind and a bit of lunch. Laughlin reasoned that the pirated edition demanded a quick rebuttal from New Directions "to get some copyright protection." He wrote to Pound about the Sanders edition and requested that Pound arrange what he would like to see in the volume. As he told an interested party in September 1968: "One reason for putting this New Directions Drafts & Fragments out fist, is to try to stop some more piracies of the Ed Sanders kind, his disgusting mimeographed version which he had made up from typescripts which he must have gotten from one of the poets to whom Ezra had sent them... Pound's lawyers have gotten after Sanders, and he says he won't do it again, but with an anarchist like that you never know. It was on the basis of this piracy that I was able to persuade Ezra to do some work in putting these Drafts & Fragments into shape and let us bring them out now."5 In the summer of 1968 Laughlin described Pound's situation and the likely outcome of the pressure he exerted on Pound to fashion the material for publication: "I now hear from him in Venice that the work is proceeding, though it is slow, because his eyes are in bad shape. It sounds as though what we will get will be about 20 to 30 pages of the portions of Cantos 110 to 117 which he has completed. So I think we will have to have some title such as 'Draft of Cantos 110 to 117.' There is precedent for this title as the first 30, when they were first done here, were titled 'A Draft of Thirty Cantos."' A few months later, Laughlin would revise this provisional title to its present one (probably because he received the unprecedented incomplete versions of three cantos -- 111, 112, and 115 -- which were not in shape in the usual sense). During the spring and summer of 1968 Laughlin was in contact with Pound concerning the proofreading of the typescripts Pound had mailed him, and he offered suggestions for changes. Pound's replies were often no longer than one or two words, implying not only ill health and poor vision, but a weariness with the whole procedure.6

In preparing the material for Laughlin, Pound worked from the second set of typescripts he received from Hall in 1960; he probably emended in his own hand, according to his daughter Mary de Rachewiltz, and had his companion Olga Rudge type the edited copy. There are minor substantive changes between the second 1960 Hall version of the poem group and the version Pound sent Laughlin in 1968 (the 1960 canto 116 retained the Heraklean voice from Pound's translation Women of Trachis "And I am not a demigod / the damn stuff will not cohere," which is softened to the present "And I am not a demigod / I cannot make it cohere"; thus the present version significantly locates the inability to cohere more in Pound than in his poem). The major difference, though, was Pound's inclusion of the three fragments that would become "Notes for CXVII et seq." The first fragment is from a 1959 version of Canto 115; part of the second fragment is also from that poem, and part was written out in longhand by Pound in 1968; the third fragment is from a 1959 version of Canto 113. In the proofs, signed in Venice by Pound on 23 August 1968, these fragments are not given a number; they are included under the head-ing "Fragments of CANTOS" and are preceded under that heading by what are now the two "Addendum for C" fragments. Pound may have dictated the specific title ("Notes for CXVII et seq.") for these fragments later; the Latin, Laughlin speculates, suggests Pound's authorship. However, Eva Hesse told Laughlin that she was "most suspicious about the heading . . . . Did Ezra really think that one up? . . . [It] implies that he proposes to go on beyond 116, which I am sure was really intended to be THE END. This gives critics an opportunity to claim that he's now stuck and can't finish the job . . . [Itl helps to sustain Olga's myth that he's still 'working on the Cantos,' but it places the whole status of the Cantos in serious jeopardy, don't you think?"7 Evidently Laughlin did not, and there were reasons for his decision to include the fragments of cantos after 116. His role, he believed, was twofold: to make available to the reading public what Pound had written to that point, and in the process to get copyright protection over the potentially uncontrollable dispersal of fragments into unauthorized hands. Hesse's response astutely foresaw how editorial decisions concerning Drafts & Fragments' content had the potential (fulfilled later, as we will see) to affect readings not only of the isolated volume, but of the entire Cantos. In its conviction that Canto 116 was to be "THE END," though, the response also reflected the readerly usurpation of such crucial decisions.8 In this case there were no consequences, largely because of Laughlin's understandable desperation to get copyright for anything he could, but in the later case of the ephemeral "CXX," whose mere existence as a published text may in fact be the result of readerly intervention, the effects are still being felt.

A similar editorial problem faced Laughlin concerning "Addendum for C," the two fragments that Pound included ("as an afterthought," grumbled Laughlin to his confused printer)9 in the 1968 typescripts under the title "From Canto C." The first originally appeared in Vice Versa in 1941 with the title "Canto proceeding (circa 72)," the second in a letter of 12 March 1941 to Pound's friend Katue Kitasono, headed "Lines to go into Canto 72 or somewhere." The problem Laughlin faced was dizzying: to integrate into a 1968 volume two 1941 fragments originally intended for the territory around Canto 72 (a poem that had not been printed with The Cantos by that time) but now given the number 100 by their author for a volume beginning with Canto 110. Laughlin first wrote Pound asking, somewhat incredulously, "Am I right that you now want it [the first fragment] to be hitched evnetually [sic] onto, or into, # 100?" and suggested to Pound that it be "put at the end of the book, with the fragments. Would that be OK?" Pound's response was an ambiguous "yes," which left Laughlin with the problem of whether it was to the first or second of his questions and, if to the second, precisely where at "the end of the book" the fragment should go.10 The next day, Laughlin wrote his printer to say that he hoped "we can persuade [Pound] just to have it at the back, among the fragments, with some indication that it eventually belongs with Canto 100, so that we won't foul up our title [Drafts & Fragments of Cantos CX-CX VIII]."11 Two months later, Laughlin wrote to Douglas Paige, the editor of The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, which first published the 1941 letter to Katue Kitasono, for permission to use the fragment from it. There he claimed that Pound "doesn't seem yet to have decided which Canto they [the lines] are finally to reside in, but just wants them put at the end of this collection."12 Thus, in the absence of much authorial guidance, Laughlin had to place them himself between Canto 116 and the "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments. In making the decision, Laughlin may have reasoned that all fragments appearing after Canto 116 should assume a historical order, and thus the 1941 fragments should lead.

By the time Laughlin saw the Sanders piracy and started the process of creating Drafts & Fragments, New Directions' upcoming 1970 Cantos I-CIX was still two years away; therefore publication of a separate volume seemed more likely to "get the special attention . . . to head off piracy." This decision resulted in the first authorized text of 1968, and a limited edition of 310 copies hand-printed by the Stone Wall Press in Iowa City under the direction of Kim Merker in 1969 (of which 100 were for Faber and Faber in London, 200 for New Directions, and 10 for the Stone Wall Press). Laughlin anticipated receiving one hundred dollars per copy lbr the Stone Wall edition and declined to advertise it, rightly assuming that it would "sell itself by word of mouth."

One of the more interesting questions concerning the authorship of the end of The Cantos involves the appearance of "CXX" in the 1972 New Directions edition and its four printings, its subsequent disappearance, and its latest role as the penultimate fragment in "Notes for CXVII et seq." These eight lines, as it turns out, followed a curious route in their journey from a 1959 prototype of Canto 115 forward into "CXX" in the 1972 New Directions Drafts & Fragments, and then back a bit into the "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments in printings eight (1981) through twelve (1991). Laughlin included the "CXX" lines for copyright protec-tion, because they were printed without Pound's authorization in a jour-nal out of Buffalo, New York, called Anonym in 1969 under the title "Canto 120," excerpted by someone using the pseudonym "The Fox" from a 1962 fragment (published in Threshold) of the 1959 unpublished typescript version of canto 115-a fragment that was deleted in the 1960 collections sent to Hall. The Anonym poem is in many respects that phan-tom reader's composition, for it extracts lines 16-18, 23, and 24-25 from the Threshold "Fragment from Canto 115" and reassembles them into a different order (23, 16-18, 24-25).13 The title "CXX" seems to consider the three "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments to be sequential separate cantos, producing numbers 117, 118, and 119 (one type of misreading that the specific numbering of those fragments permits). The recomposer was also likely aware, as Charles Norman was (and he might have been the source) that Pound had written in 1959 of how he still "hoped to make it to 120."14 The act of placing them in that terminal position reflects a particular reading of The Cantos that insists on an organic unity to the poem (so definitively as actually to rearrange lines from a differently numbered, and apparently abandoned, canto). Equally important, it sympathetically privileges a narrative of Pound's ideological self-awareness and remorse and demands the cathartic close that will exonerate the poem and its poet. The author of the canto may be Pound; at the moment we cannot tell. Certainly, if it is, he invested a great deal of energy in covering his tracks: energy matched only by those who want to uncover them.

A case of such posthumous resurrection of authorship occurred in 1986, when the Denver Bloomsbury Review carried an article that argues that "allowing considerations other than artistic merit to influence our thinking about Pound's oeuvre is a temptation to be resisted." It notes his occasional "desire to be fair" to Jews, invokes his friendships with individual Jews, and quotes Katherine Anne Porter's 1950 statement in the New York Times that his "so-called anti-Semitism was . . . only equalled by his anti-Christianism," in an attempt to contextualize Pound's anti-Semitism and prevent it from "interfer[ing] with the appreciation his oeuvre deserves." Significantly, the article is illustrated with a reproduction of a manuscript, titled "Canto 120" at the bottom, signed by Pound. The reproduction gives no indication, however, that the signature, while Pound's, is a photocopy of his signature published on the seventh leaf of Gianfranco Ivancich's Ezra Pound in Italy: From the Pisan Cantos. It is added to the reproduction to give authority to a manuscript that in reality lacks it, for the manuscript was written by the art director of the review in 1986 to illustrate the article. Its successful emulation of Pound's handwriting, and its inclusion of his signature, erroneously confirm for the hopeful that Pound indeed authored the poem. It is no coincidence that "Canto 120" would be chosen to illustrate an article containing such a thesis, and though the act of copying may have been innocent enough, it clarifies how crucial it is to substantiate the authority behind this particular poem before invoking it as proof of Pound's remorse at the end of his life.

Thus the canto's line sequence and number may or may not be Pound's. I incline toward the latter possibility, for if they are his, why did he not submit the poem to Laughlin in 1969, or anytime in the next four years? Under whose authority was it reintroduced in 1981 within the "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments?15 If they are not Pound's, we then must notice how large the discrepancy between authorial and readerly desire can be, and how powerfully a reader's interpretation of the poem (and of its apparent relationship to its poet) can alter the text. If they are Pound's lines, his crucial refusal to put them in The Cantos or, considering their pseudonymous publication in Anonym, to have them attributed to him, must be recognized when encountering their ostensibly sanctioned inclusion (and culminating position) in the 1972 New Directions Cantos, and later seemingly authoritative appearance in the "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments.16

Laughlin, whose motives have always been exemplary, had copyright as his foremost reason for including the poem in the 1972 text, but a lingering desire to see it there may have deflected him from pursuing less aesthetically invasive methods of obtaining copyright. In this case one might have been to publish the poem in some less crucial context than the end of The Cantos; Laughlin published it in the New York Times Book Review after Pound's death, in fact. No copyright is recorded in the Library of Congress for "Canto CXX" in 1969, when the poem appeared in Anonym, or for 1972, when it appeared in the New York Times. Thus, although copyright under Pound's name was stated there, it in fact did not exist. The 1972 Cantos inclusion of "CXX" may have been an effort to redress that legality, making the text even more a victim of external, not aesthetic, circumstances.17

In 1966 Pound showed Laughlin what the "ending" was to be, the poem (now terminating the post-1979 New Directions and the 1987 Faber texts) dedicating The Cantos to Olga Rudge:

That her acts
          Olga's acts
                    of beauty
          be remembered.
Her name was Courage
& is written Olga
          These lines are for the
ultimate CANTO
whatever I may write
in the interim.
    (24 August 1966)
It offers another clue to any interpretation of The Cantos' teleology: since Pound never sent it to Laughlin for inclusion in Drafts & Fragments, we are left to assume that even by 1968, when submitting the material and signing the proofs, he believed in the possibility of extending his long poem to a later paradisal conclusion in which the Olga Rudge canto would figure as the close, or at least as part of it.

It is difficult, and perhaps inappropriate, to speculate on the fate of these last poems had this piracy on the high seas of Cantos texts not occurred. At one extreme are the possibilities that Cantos 110 to 116 and the fragments would never have been included in the complete Cantos text, or that eventually they would have been included posthumously (taken from their magazine forms, which were often very different from their present ones), offered and read with the tentativeness such a gesture requests. At another extreme is the improbable vision of a text Pound arranged, named, worded, and sanctioned at greater leisure than the sudden response to the piracy required: a text, that is, devised and published in accordance with Pound's wishes. It is improbable because during the late 1960s that serendipitous combination of vigor, health, and time was not his. It is improbable for another, and I think more crucial, reason, too, which is related to Pound's rereading of The Cantos during the composition of the Drafts & Fragments poems, as I will discuss later.

Hence, we have been given, over twenty-two years, at least six extremely different versions of a volume entitled Drafts & Fragments.18 Each incorporates varying editorial decisions concerning sequence and content. Each responds in its own way to what its editor(s) vainly hoped Pound intended, or to what they thought The Cantos requested in the absence of its author: some including a canto "CXX" and some not; one including two versions of a Canto 115 and excluding the "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments; one rearranging these fragments in a sequence different from the others, placing the troublesome foster child "CXX" among the "Notes for CXVII et seq." family, putting the displaced Cantos 72 and 73 next, and then ending with the poem to Olga Rudge. The New Directions edition of 1989 maintains the changes of its immediate predecessor but restores the two displaced cantos to their numerically proper sites in the poem. (This latest restoration is, to me at least, extremely problematic, and indicative of just how delicately any editorial decisions about a sequentially ordered and historically composed text such as The Cantos must be made and implemented. Though the cantos' numbers invite the restoration, to grant that request retroactively drapes the illusion of calm over what was an extremely disrupted moment in the text's composition, in effect erasing its history.) The six versions of a Drafts & Fragments text merely represent the number of editions that actually contain different poems and sequences. That number does not include, for instance, the 1975 Faber Cantos, which refused entry to "CXX." Although it is identical to the New Directions 1970 edition, it is so as a result of deliberate policy, not external circumstance, and thus the two texts exist in extremely divergent "bibliographical environments"19 of which the reader may be entirely unaware. Too, the number I have given of six versions scarcely begins to reflect the several, though less spectacular, differences in precise wording and spelling. If these were included, the number would be far higher.20 Nor does it include the very different versions of individual cantos published in magazines and journals in the six years pre-ceding publication in a volume.21

Because four of the six different volume versions (the exceptions are the pirated edition and the New Directions 1968 edition) have been part of a complete Cantos text over which we used to imagine Pound had exerted some editorial control, the assumed history (now in the process, hopefully, of being rewritten) of their predecessors has somewhat falsely sanctioned Drafts & Fragments for the reader. Although Pound maintained an evasive policy about his involvement in The Cantos' editing (writing in 1938 that he did "not care a hoot how much I am edited. I am not touchy about the elimination of a phrase"), the ironic fact is that The Cantos and its terminal Drafts & Fragments have frequently been read until recently with an unconscious belief, or at least conditioned hope, in the "monolithic authority" behind the text that simply is not present.22 Ultimately Drafts & Fragments reveals, perhaps most clearly of all The Cantos' volumes, a textual instability that is characteristic of each of them; its production underlines how The Cantos was never innocently subordinate to the dictates of its poet, but a product of the combined and interpretive "readings" of its readers and editors as well. In the case of Drafts & Fragments, readers and editors have resuscitated a volume whose maker may otherwise have let it collapse before it achieved the satisfaction of intact sequential numbering, a 120th canto, or the courtesy of closure.

Besides the instabilities of title, sequence and choice of material, and hostaged publication, there is yet another problem, intrinsic to Drafts & Fragments, that magnifies the importance of its textual status. As the last volume of The Cantos, empowered by the magnitude of that imposing text to which it now belongs, it can be regarded as Pound's intended close to the poem. Since the structure of The Cantos itself has been described so variously, it is not surprising that its final volume has attracted similarly divergent responses. Drafts & Fragments has been interpreted as an indication of "Pound's refusal to provide a coherent ending,"23 but also as the open-ended and relaxed finale that [The Cantos] needs."24 It ends Pound's long poem in "an appropriately indirect, but rather pathetic manner," writes another reader;25 yet another, though, sees among its "unforgettable words and images" a direct reference to Canto 1, and hence a circular structure, in which the final canto fragments of that reader's edition, "Notes for CXVII et seq.," do not communicate pathos but a "hopeful warning to . . . fellow human beings."26 Retroactively, through a multitude of Drafts & Fragments versions (all the progeny of a pirated text, itself a reader's response to Pound's reluctance by 1967 to publish a horizon to the poem), The Cantos has been read as incomplete, closed, failed, and successful.

Thus the Drafts & Fragments volume's contents and interpretation necessarily involve and implicate the long poem to which it is appended and help situate The Cantos in a judgmental debate over the nature of its achievement. It is partly for these reasons that it has been made to bear the weight of such editorial resurrection and reconstruction. A reading based upon the 1972 New Directions edition of The Cantos that includes "CXX" will differ from one based on the New Directions 1970 edition (and its 1971 printing) and the 1976 Faber edition, which do not. A reading based on New Directions' 1989 edition and Faber's 1987 edition will generate a third set of possibilities, for their camouflage of the "CXX" lines as the third fragment of "Notes for CXVII et seq." is presumably to release the last line -- "To be men not destroyers" -- into the poem's culminating position. The reading that believes the itinerant "CXX" to be the end will sympathetically regard "the last words of the entire epic [as] a gentle, almost muted prayer for forgiveness . . . a startling ending."27 A consequence of placing "Notes for CXVII et seq." at the end is the response that, mentioned earlier, sees Drafts & Fragments lending The Cantos "the open-ended and relaxed finale it needs," and that regards it as, somewhat mystically, "look[ing] beyond the poem" (as Hesse had predicted it would). Yet, if we are to believe his statement concerning the Olga Rudge poem, Pound did not intend the fragments to end The Cantos either (which unintentionally validates the claim that they "look beyond the poem," since they were not to close it). A third possibility, which, as we have seen, is not ignored by readers, is that Canto 116 (whose final lines are "A little light like a rushlight / To lead back to splendour") ends The Cantos. This reading desires a conciliatory ending, in which the last lines ("Pound's final statement") longingly recall an earlier Pound, and possibly an earlier pre-fascist part of The Cantos too, for "splendour" refers not only to a crucial line about coherence in Pound's translation Women of Trachis, but also to Hermes of Canto 17.28 None of these responses is wrong, for there is nostalgia in Canto 116 and self-disparagement in "CXX." The point is that if these and future responses are to be valid, they must be made in accordance with a sufficient understanding of the historical dynamics and inter-woven authority -- Pound's, his editors', his readers', and even The Cantos' itself -- that has generated a text capable of so many definitive, but divergent, assumptions concerning its very provisional contents and significance. Otherwise, any Cantos text that includes the Drafts & Fragments volume will continue implicitly to sanction not only its version of the poem's ending, but consequently its reading of the whole poem, and obscure the fact of what turns out to be Pound's extremely uneasy feelings about it.

"CXX" was introduced into editions of The Cantos because Pound had relinquished control over his long poem to a degree unprecedented both for him and for the kind of poem The Cantos seemed to be. This loss of control was apparently manifested only in isolated incidents such as these -- in other words, it seemed to involve merely the practical sphere of publication and editing of cantos written after Thrones de los Cantares. It seemed, too, that such a phenomenon was neither unusual nor unexpected, for Pound's health declined after the publication of that 1959 volume; his personal life and repeated geographical dislocations increasingly became an impediment to the laborious care such control demands. Yet he effectively abandoned the composition of what were to become the poems of Drafts & Fragments in 1960, twelve years before he died, twelve years during which, if compromised by ill health, he was nevertheless active in the literary field. He gave public readings, traveled to the United States for an honorary degree, sustained his correspondence, attended the funeral of T. S. Eliot in London. The silence on The Cantos' front is notable, therefore, because it cannot entirely be explained by these external impedi-ments. The answer to it, I think, lies with Pound's developing response to his life and The Cantos as much as with extenuating circumstance.

The publishing history of Drafts & Fragments is certainly tangled, but it may do more than caution us against definitive interpretations of it and its larger context, The Cantos; in the wake of its unceremonious textual journey we may also recognize the current of Pound's own disenchantment with the poem, and specifically with the paradise he had been trying to fashion for it all along. His loss of control over these late cantos is not simply reflective of an inability to handle the practicalities of publication, therefore: the resistance he encountered in trying to write what was to be the paradise to his long poem forced him to recognize that its own dynamics had eluded his control, that the poem had ceased to remain compliant, and had instead become adversarial. Indeed, Drafts & Fragments frequently ruminates upon how his vision of consolidating The Cantos' project to write paradise is compromised, making it the self-absorbed palinode to The Cantos that we now read more by accident than by Pound's design. The volume is as much a product of readerly and editorial intervention as it is of Pound's intention: yet even the intentions that are fulfilled in Drafts & Fragments are merely a fragment of the paradise that Pound envisioned for it.

Pound's problems with writing the paradisal close he still envisioned for the poem as late as 1958 seem to have inaugurated his reconsideration of The Cantos, and very possibly, as a response to that failure to "make it cohere," his own silence. The many people who knew Pound and wrote of his deliberate "silence" after 1961, and particularly of his later admissions that The Cantos was a "botch," a "mess," "gibberish," "stupidity and ignorance all the way through,"29 all declared a puzzled disbelief in Pound's opinion and implied that a kind of geriatric depression occasioned his pessimistic view of his poem and life. But Pound's physical and emotional distress, and eventual silence during the last decade of his life, were not the only cause of The Cantos' fragmented close -- if anything, the reverse is equally true. The typescripts of what would become the Drafts & Fragments poems reveal a remarkably tortured and difficult composition, possibly caused by his reassessment of The Cantos' political and racial ideologies. By November 1959, immediately after writing the early versions of Cantos 110 to 116, his earlier political views are suppressed, for he writes Laughlin then that he "has forgotten what or which politics he ever had. Certainly has none now."30 Drafts & Fragments is the trace of that very crucial point in The Cantos where political and racial certainty is exchanged for recalculation and denial, themselves later to evolve into tentative admission and regret. It is significant that the ensuing absence of any Cantos composition occurs alongside Pound's spoken confession in the 1960s of his earlier racial and political errors.

Keeping in mind that the impetus for the volume's publication did not come from Pound, then, we should do him the justice of exploring more options than the extenuating circumstances of old age and depression for the hyperfragmentary form of Drafts & Fragments and entertain the notion that he had some additional reasons of a poetic and ideological nature for not publishing its lines until his hand was forced. In a sense, the Drafts & Fragments poems present an extreme version of the situation Ron Bush uncovers in The Pisan Cantos, where the poems are "set in motion under the auspices of one set of poetic values" and then significantly changed during their revisions as circumstances and personal attitudes intervene. Pound had always hoped for a close to his Cantos that would consolidate the paradise he had tried to write into it almost from the beginning; by the late 1950s, however, he had begun to reconsider the foundations of that paradise, thus imperiling the termination the poem earlier seemed to request. The "spasm of defensiveness" that finally shapes The Pisan Cantos is replaced in Drafts & Fragments, I think, by a deep reflectiveness that, while frequently serene, is at times profoundly discomforting for him.

A small clue to this lies in his different predictions for The Cantos' close between 1944 and the crucial year of 1958 when composition of the final cantos began. In 1944 he was confident it would comply with the loosely Dantean structure the poem had already begun to establish: "[The Cantos is] an epic poem which begins 'In the Dark Forest,' crosses the Purgatory of human error, and ends in the light," he wrote in An Introduction to the Economic Nature of the United States. His views in 1958, though, were less certain; he seemed to be shifting now between a vision of the poem's stability, which would occasion a paradisal close, and its growing inadequacy -- between a defensive and a critical reading of it. In the spring of 1958, immediately prior to composing Canto 110 and beyond, he remarked confidently to Charlotte Kohler of the Virginia Quarterly that his characters "have . . . passed through Hell and Purgatory and are somewhere in Paradise. When you paint on a big canvas.. . you have to start colors down here. . . but it all ties in, it all ties in."31 Yet he also wrote to Norman Holmes Pearson later in the same year, after writing (but not yet revising) much of the Drafts & Fragments poetry, that he foresaw a close not in such struc-tural terms but as more provisionally guided by his own shifting response to the poem: "Cantos won't be finished until my demise, shd always reserve possibility of death-bed swan."32 Within this dilemma of reading, that is, he began composing the last poems. One might speculate that the Pound of that time and later had begun to reconsider The Cantos' earlier politics and racial assertions and ultimately regretted them as improper reflections of his truer beliefs.33 Because this wiser rereading could not permit the political and social paradise for which The Cantos had always searched, yet which he had not entirely discarded, the composition of the final poems became an enterprise beset by paradox and compromise, and as a result he did not pursue their publication too vigorously. "It makes a great difference," Jerome McGann writes, "if, for example, an author writes but does not print a poem; it also makes a difference whether such a poem is circulated by the author or not, just as it makes a very great difference indeed when (or if) such a poem is printed, and where, and by whom."34 These differences, so great in the history of text production of Drafts & Fragments, alert us to the spectacle of Pound reading Pound, and of his eventual disenchantment with at least some dimensions of The Cantos. His concept of "ending," in this respect, is really of revelation, the apocalyptic moment of "see[ing] again," as he puts it in Canto 116, what much of the poem has contained all along. The troubled composition of the last poems and Pound's withdrawal from the usual process of their publication illustrate both their new and difficult status for him and his acknowledgment that The Cantos' structural finality, so dependent upon ideological stability, is now inevitably to be placed "beyond the poem's horizon."35 They also illustrate for us that any textual finality is Canto 113's "hall of mirrors,~~ a mirage more reflective of our "dream of the whole poem" (as Williams would say in Paterson's book 4) than of The Cantos itself.

Drafts & Fragments is a vivid display of the historical dimension of text production and its consequences for interpretation. It is also the site where Pound acknowledges, contrary to the desires of some of his readers, that his poem, in keeping with its mandate to include history, must not avoid its own reconsideration and reinterpretation. The composition and publication history suggests, crucially, that he may never have felt comfortable with the intentions of closure that a published last volume for The Cantos might imply. The poems of Drafts & Fragments cannot, therefore, be read outside the context of their textual production, a history that is intrinsic to the volume's gestures of incompletion and self-interrogation (including the multiple identities, poetic and personal, that "self-" fitfully merges here). No matter how successfully any edition of Drafts & Fragments delineates the composite authorities that fashioned the poems, it can never communicate through the text itself how its mere existence is so historically determined by the occurrence of the pirated edition-a situation that removes the Drafts & Fragments volume from the company of its 109 forerunners, whose inclusion (though not necessarily textual precision) in The Cantos, no matter how complex and multiply authored their texts, is at least fully generated by Pound himself.


1. Letter from Donald Hall to Ezra Pound, 21 May 1960, Box 18, Folder 700. NHBY, PA.

2. Hall kept the top copies and returned the carbons to Pound. The decision to make the copies is understandable; Pound had asked Hall for his opinion of the five cantos shown to him in Rome, and Hall felt that he had an interest in, and responsibility toward, nurturing them. As he wrote to Laughlin in 1982, when recalling the situation: "I was (gladly, gladly) being his secretary for a brief time there" (copy in Hall's possession).

3. Tom Clark, letter to the author, 26 Oct. 1982.

4. Sanders misread Pound's longhand "Alma Patrona" (nourishing or bounteous female guardian) in the first line of the Hall typescript as "Alma Pulnuoa." Massimo Bacigalupo, in The Formed Trace: The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 461-62 accepts Sanders's error and thus sees Pound's invocation of a white goddess.

5. James Laughlin, letter to Robert Gales, 9 Sept. 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk.

6. A case in point is Pound's response to Laughlin's query concerning the ideograms in Canto 112 beneath "as Jade stream." (Laughlin, in a letter of 26 June 1968 to Pound, asked a number of textual questions about the Drafts & Fragments typescripts. Pound, needing to conserve his energy by this point, wrote his answers in the margins of the letter itself and returned it to Laughlin.) Beside Laughlin's question about the ideograms, Pound paradoxically draws in the ideograms and writes the word "delete." Laughlin, writing to the printer of the first authorized edition, Kim Merker, advises him to "put everything in" (Laughlin, letter to Kim Merker, 27 June 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk).

7. Ezra Pound, letter to James Laughlin, June (?) 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk.

8. Another example of this enormous conviction involves Pound's line "Mozart, Linnaeus, Sulmona" in Canto 115. Hesse wrote to Laughlin that "Sulmona (place name) is an obvious error. The line should certainly read: Mozart, Linnaeus, Agassiz -- the same three men whom Ezra places in Paradise in fragment CXII in the line: Mozart, Agassiz and Linnaeus." Laughlin wrote Pound that "Another didakt worries because it says here 'Mozart, Linnaeus, Sulmona' when somewhere earlier there is a line 'Mozart, Linnaeus, Agassiz.' Jas does not see why you have to say the same thing every time, but passes this along for what it may be worth. 'Sulmona' is, I believe, a hamlet in the Abruzzi, with which EP may well have associations" (James Laughlin, letter to Ezra Pound, 26 June 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk). It is also the birthplace of Ovid and thus releases a constellation of significances, one of which is a reminder of the ur-cantos and Canto 2, where Metamorphoses figured prominently; as such, it suggests how the writing of The Cantos' last poems recalled for Pound the arduous process of writing the first.

9. James Laughlin, letter to Kim Merker, 27 June 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk.

10. James Laughlin, letter to Ezra Pound, 26 June 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk. Pound wrote his "yes" response in the margin beside Laughlin's question.

11. James Laughlin, letter to Kim Merker, 27 June 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk.

12. James Laughlin letter to Douglas D. Paige, 16 August 1968, New Directions archive, Norfolk.

13. "Fragment from Canto 115," Threshold 17 ([spring? 1962]): 20. The Anonym version, entitled "Canto 120," is authored by "The Fox," Anonym 4 ([summer?] 1969): 1, and reprinted in the New York Times, 26 November 1972, 42.

14. See Charles Norman, Ezra Pound: A Biography (London: Macdonald, 1969), 465.

15. Laughlin has no record of when or how he first saw a Canto 120, and the decision to resituate it in the "Notes for CXVII et seq." fragments for the 1986 Cantos was based on "what seemed appropriate" at the time. James Laughlin, letter to the author, 30 January 1989.

16. Peter du Sautoy, chairman of Faber and Faber at the time, declined to print the poem in their 1975 edition of The Cantos, writing in the Times Literary Supplement in 1976 that "the new edition of The Cantos which we have recently published consists of sheets of the American edition . .. published by New Directions. There is one small difference: the sheets we have used do not contain the 'Canto 120' that appears in the New Directions edition as we did not feel certain that these lines were what Pound intended to come at the end of his long poem. We hope that it is a convenience to scholars that apart from this minor difference the two texts are now identical. As for Cantos 72 and 73, we shall include them if and when they are offered to us by Pound's literary trustees." Times Literary Supplement, 20 August 1976, 1032.

17. See Christine Froula, To Write Paradise: Style and Error in Pound's Cantos (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 175 for her research on the copyright attributed to "Canto 120."

18. These six are the 1967 pirated edition, the 1968 New Directions edition (identical to the 1969 limited edition printed by Stone Wall Press), and the 1970, 1972, 1986, and 1989 editions in the New Directions Cantos.

19. Jerome J. McGann, The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 85.

20. See Barbara Eastman, Ezra Pound's Cantos: The Story of the Text, 1948-1975 (Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1979), 129-41 for a detailed account of these changes.

21. Hall had sent a copy of the poems he received from Pound to Laughlin in June 1960, and Laughlin wrote to Pound saying that "there is some really marvellous stuff in this new material" (James Laughlin, letter to Ezra Pound, 9 June 1960, New Directions archive, Norfolk). In 1965, after directing the magazine publication of some of the material, Laughlin suggested the idea of a post-Thrones volume to Pound, but Pound's response was merely concilia-tory: "I will try to look into the question of draft of cantos. I haven't much here. Please let me have a list of what has been printed where, as far as you can" (Ezra Pound, letter to James Laughlin, 12 February [1965?], New Directions archive, Norfolk).

22. Barbara Eastman's Ezra Pound's Cantos was the first study to concentrate on the provisionality of the text's state. Froula extends the findings through an intensive examination of Canto 4, and writes that the "editorial difficulties have to do not only with the technical problems posed by the poem's highly complex textual history but, more important, with a perhaps unprecedented divergence between the author's intentions regarding his text and those which the policies of his editors have tended to project upon it" (To Write Paradise, 6). "Monolithic authority" is her term.

23. Michael André Bernstein, The Tale of the Tribe: Ezra Pound and the Modern Verse Epic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 125.

24. Bacigalupo, The Formed Trace, 489

25. Leon Surette, A Light from Eleusis: A Study of Ezra Pound's Cantos (London: Oxford University Press), 260.

26. James I. Wilhelm, The Later Cantos of Ezra Pound (New York: Walker and Co., 1977), 168.

27. Bernstein, Tale of the Tribe, 124.

28. In Sophocles' Trachiniae, Herakles realizes the ironic truth of the Dodonian oracle while he is in mortal agony; he had interpreted it earlier as a prediction not of his death but of a comfortable old age. Pound, in a footnote to his translation, calls this the "key phrase" of the play:

Time lives and it's going on now.
I am released from trouble.
I thought it meant life in comfort.
It doesn't. It means I die.
For amid the dead there is no work in service.
Come at it that way, my boy, what

Ezra Pound, trans., Women of Trachis (New York: New Directions, 1957), 49-50. In Canto 17: "Splendour, as the splendour of Hermes."

29. Michael Reck, "A Conversation between Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsberg," Evergreen Review 55 (June 1968): 29. That poor health, political exile, and emotional suffering complicated Pound's writing of paradise and assisted The Cantos' termination is an inescapable fact. Yet if they elucidate local passages of Drafts & Fragments, they also write Pound into a Dantesean narrative of exile caused by public and political misinterpretation, a narrative that hinted that the poem's failing close was a consequence of external, not intrinsic, conditions and permitted him on the occasion of the Hall interview to cast himself in the heroic capacity of "the last American living the tragedy of Europe."

30. Ezra Pound, letter to James Laughlin, 24 November 1959, New Directions archive, Norfolk.

31. Quoted in Harry Meacham, The Caged Panther (New York: Twayne, 1967), 141.

32. From an unpublished letter, 5 December 1958, in the Norman Holmes Pearson Papers, Beinecke Library.

33. For a very thorough investigation of the roots of Pound's anti-Semitism and fascism, which suggests that they were inherited attitudes later to dismay him, see Wendy Stallard Flory, The American Ezra Pound (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), particularly chap. 6.

34. Jerome I. McGann, "Keats and the Historical Method in Literary Criticism," MLN94 (1979): 993.

35. Balachandra Rajan, The Form of the Unfinished: English Poetics from Spenser to Pound (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 295.