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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:
From:
Alexander Schmitz <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Fri, 30 Jan 1998 12:16:00 +0100
Reply-To:
Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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Jeff -
 
the EP "lightning" struck me in 1965; I was in Hi School back then in what we in Germany call
the 12th form [in West Berlin it's 6 yrs elementary school - instead of 4 as in the rest of Germany -
and then either this or that school. If you have13 yrs all in all you're graduated from Hi  & can go to
the university...] Well, and back then I must have been in a sort of poetry reading frency
spending ALL the money I got [pocket-money, as we say] in paper editions of about ANY poet I
cd get hold of. It ranged from Senghor/Africa to Rozewicz/Poland; but as early as then it was the
Americans in the 1st place - at that time the Black Mtn Coll. greats Creeley, Olson &c.
 
We had to write a so-called "Jahresarbeit" which meant you've got about 10 months time to
choose a topic and write about it; it cd be ANYthing, aviation, how to build a house, Brecht,
Vietnam, sports, Goethe, Peano axioms; well and I went to our Engl. teacher & sd:
 
 >Mrs Kern, I'd 4very much like to write about OLSON.<
 
There was a small selection of Olson's things out in a beautiful and unexpensive German paper
ed. selected/transl. by Klaus Reichert (a Black Mtn specialist).  And Mrs Kern sd: "But Alex,
nobody KNOWS this - what's his name?" She meaning, of course, SHE didn't know...
 
And exactly at that time my late mum (med. doctor used to reading 350 page novels during ONE
nite) had a black book lying on her otherwise chronically chaotic bedside-table: "EZRA POUND -
ABC DES LESENS" [EP/ABC of Rdg.]. Well, and THAT started it all. I never ever again in my life
heard such a fasciating NAME [something like this "Dorothy effect"? ] & such a FUNNY title for a
book. And at that time all you cd afford to get in book form (with about 30 Marks per month) by EP
was an excellent and now (alas!) out-of-print selection of EP's Cantos. Well.
 
I went to Mrs Kern again:
 
- "OK then, Mrs Kern - what about Ezra Pound?"
 
- "?"
 
- "The CANTOS of Ezra Pound !!"
 
- "?????????????????????????????????????"
 
But I got her! After a short while of asking this & that it was ok with her that I wd write an
"analysis"/ comparison of Canto LXXIX, i.e. original text & translation. And you wdn't believe it: it
became an A [i. e. "1" here in Germany]. My mother sd: >Mh, well, yeaah, quite nice... BUT it cd
have been MUCH better!" [This strange method of not encouraging you but always saying: This
or that shd be BETTER!]. And that started it all. Plus the ENORMOUS fascination of
definitely understanding NOTHING - Greek, too much Latin, Italian, Spanish - simply too much for
a 19 year old Berliner's brain.
But actually it was the beauty of those chinese characters, the "ming", the "hsien", the "t'an" -
which pushed me into the university to become a sinologue. And sort of a specialist in modern
poetry & esp. US poetry (EVERYTHING, but esp. our century).
 
Still in 1966, right after graduation from hi I made my pilgrimage to Eva Hesse (German translator
of EP & tireless constructor of bridges between US poetry & German ignorance...) and that  1st
visit  - and MANY more visits resulting in a close friendship with her & her Irish wonderful hubby
Mike)  including numerous visits at Brunnenburg and even - yes - a day with EP & Olga in Venice
(me with guitar in hand standing at the info center in stazione termini asking this guy: >Scusi, cd
you tell me where I cd get a TAXI?< - in V E N I C E !!!), meeting Hugh Kenner in Munich, Michael
Reck at the Starnberger See, Will. Cookson/Agenda in London etc etc, years of correspondence
with Guy Davenport in Lexington, KY... It was a chain-reaction. It became a PASSION which wd
last a WHOLE life...
 
Well, Jeff, so that's one of those stories about a guy by now 52 yrs of age & not able to imagine
his life - or only a single day - WITHOUT EP. It's an addiction, it's a dangerous addiction; and on
the other hand it's the healthiest, the most wonderful addiction you cd think of: EP means reading
LOADS of other things; EP means a very special brand of KULCHUR. It is EP who opened my
mind/senses for America & the Americans (plus imagine that a West Berliner always had string
ties to Americans. It was they who kept us alive in 48/49 and 1957 ff) but NOT ONLY for America:
Isn't it funny that you helplessly fall in love with an AMERICAN to show you all the beauties &
treasures of the OLD WORLD - the very place YOU happen to live...?
 
OK. Excuse my eloquence, Jeff. I just thought I shd tell MY story. It's LXXXI  - what thou lovest
well...
 
Cheers!
 
alex