Our tale begins in 1978, when Carroll F. Terrell had the initiative of adding a ‘book club’ to the National Poetry Foundation. He had created the NPF seven years previously, to enable the launching of Paideuma, a scholarly journal dedicated to research of Ezra Pound. Since 1972, the journal had gathered around it the best essays on the poet and implicitly created a community of scholars who would have needed to buy books that were of great interest to them, but too specialized for a general market. At some point, Terrell wanted to rename the NPF – he made the attempt of calling it the Ezra Pound Society. However, this did not work out.
This is what he wrote:
Stuffed into the pages of this issue you will find … a membership blank which is an invitation to join the Ezra Pound Society as an adjunct activity of the National Poetry Foundation, Inc. I had once planned to convert the Foundation to the new name, but the red tape and legal fees make that idea [with apologies] “inoperative”. Since we can accomplish the same thing by this ploy, the trouble is also unnecessary.
My idea is to form a sort of Mini-Readers Subscription Club made up of people who will be the most interested in special studies on the work of Pound. I expect to publish 2 to 4 books a year but will deliberately choose those which commercial publishers or university presses cannot print because they can be expected to have too small a market. […] Members of the Ezra Pound Society will receive a 50% discount on each book. (Paideuma Bulletin Board, 8 1 Spring 1979)
In the same number, Terrell announced the formation of two ‘chapters’ of the EPS: one at the University of Maine and one in Kyoto, expressing the hope that similar organisations of minimum ten members would be created to form a network of chapter locations in the United States, Canada and Europe. This did not come to pass. The two initial chapters are the only ones that have been created to date. Membership to the society in the Western hemisphere was established by the subscription to Paideuma, which continued to be the axis of all Terrell’s initiatives. He wrote the initial charter of the society, which established the minimum number of members, the dues ($25), and the privileges (free issue of Paideuma and 50% discount on books). This initial charter was rather unspecific as to the kind of officers it might have needed, since Terrell assumed the type of officer would be determined locally. Since this was to be a network, the document also mentioned “delegates” to “national meetings.” The mission of the society was to “promote and develop the study of Pound’s work as a poet and man of letters” (charter document, 1978).
The year the EPS was founded (1979, if we take it to overlap with the announcement in Paideuma) was very critical. Terrell was finishing the first volume of the Companion (published in 1980) and was also retiring from full time academic duties (1981) to concentrate on the second volume (1985). Additionally, the NPF was enlarging its sphere of scholarly interest to the Objectivists and other poets in the Pound tradition: Terrell founded Sagetrieb in 1982 and after the first issue asked Burt Hatlen to take over editorship (Hatlen 59). In 1989, Terrell gave up full-time responsibility for the NPF, though continuing to act as consultant for Paideuma (Hatlen 48). Membership in the EPS was in all respects included within the NPF and its activities at Orono: the publication of the journals, the conferences at the University of Maine (1975, 1980, 1985, 1990), and the books that were published under the aegis of the NPF.
It was Burt Hatlen who gave the society a degree of autonomy when he became Director of the NPF and Secretary of the EPS in 1990. In 1992 he revised the initial charter of the EPS and established a set of amended by-laws that governed society activity until 2014. Hatlen proposed that since membership to the society is the subscription to the journal, a dollar from the Paideuma subscription should go into financing the EPS. The revision of the by-laws had become necessary because Terrell’s initial idea of the EPS as network of local chapters had not materialized. Additionally, the society was applying for MLA affiliate status and had to comply with the MLA conditions: a society had to be at least four years old, have a charter, dues paying membership, and an elected slate of officers. Additionally, the MLA stipulated that members should have the opportunity “to participate in the full range of the operations of the organisation” (Hatlen, letter to members, July 20, 1992).
From the bulletin board of the Paideuma (spring-fall 1992), we can see that Hatlen’s procedures fully complied with MLA directives and were radically democratic: he sent out cards with requests for votes and scholars responded:
So far over 100 of you have returned the form which designates $1.00 of your Paideuma subscription as dues to the Society. This group seems large enough to allow us to move on to the next step, which is to update the bylaws. So if you sent in your form, you will receive, some time in May, a copy of the old by-laws along with a set of proposed revisions and a ballot which you should return to Burton Hatlen, the secretary of the association. In June or July we will apply to the MLA for affiliate status. If the application is approved, we will have one or two sessions at the 1993 MLA convention (Paideuma bulletin board 21 1/2).
At the same time, Hatlen ensured that the society had two slots at the annual conference of the American Literature Association – the first panel organised by the EPS was at the ALA conference of 1993. Hatlen announced: “Anyone interested in participating in the 1993 convention can write to me. You need not be a EPS member to give a paper” (Paideuma bulletin board winter 21 3 1992). Participation in the MLA conventions was delayed until 1995 (Ahearn and Witemeyer 456). According to the amended by-laws, the society then got its first president: Hugh Witemeyer (1992-1997). He was followed by Barry Ahearn (1997-2001), Alec Marsh (2001-2013) and Roxana Preda (2013-). Burton Hatlen served as Secretary until 2008 when Demetres Tryphonopoulos took over. Alec and Demetres ran the society after Hatlen’s passing away that year – they had the help of Tim Redman and Ira Nadel. All four consented to become members of a society Advisory Board founded in 2013 to advise Preda – they discuss and validate all new initiatives concerning the EPS.
Regular panels at the MLA and ALA conferences have structured the society activity ever since 1993 and have constituted the main service that the EPS has brought to Pound scholars. Over the years, alliances with other societies, mainly those devoted to William Carlos Williams, James Joyce, and H.D., have enriched and diversified the palette of sessions. Here are some recent examples: Ezra Pound and the San Francisco Renaissance (ALA, 2006), Teaching Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose (ALA, 2009); Ezra Pound in H.D.’s Work (ALA 2012) Prosody in the Poetry of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams (MLA 2011); Ezra Pound and James Joyce: Connections and Disconnections (MLA 2012).
In 1999, at Hugh Witemeyer’s suggestion, the society initiated its annual award for the best book of Ezra Pound scholarship. Along the years, the society thus honoured Alec Marsh, Margaret Fisher, Walter Baumann and Leon Surette, among others. The award is not financed out of the society dues (which are minimal) but out of private sponsorship. The recipient is announced at the MLA convention. In 2013 the society added a prize for best article in Pound scholarship, which was awarded in 2014 for the first time at the ALA convention in Washington.
In 2013, the society also received the opportunity to participate with a regular panel at the Louisville conference. Starting with 2014, the EPS has an assured slot for this major annual event dedicated to 20th century literature in relation to the arts. Our panel for 2014 was called: Contributions to the Poetics of Ezra Pound’s Cantos: Epic-Image-Music.
The Paideuma number for 2013 was dedicated to Burt Hatlen and is a memorial to his great work and service to both the Ezra Pound Society, as long-term Secretary and to the National Poetry Foundation, as its Director for eighteen years. In 2001, one of his initiatives made possible a greater definition of the profiles of both organisations: he stopped the journal Sagetrieb (2002) and decided to open up Paideuma to the poetry of American modernism more generally, retaining a substantial focus on Pound scholarship (Hatlen, letter to the EPS, June 15, 2001). This decision, while favoring the development of the NPF away from Pound studies strictly conceived, has proved problematic for scholars who would prefer to remain within the more circumscribed area of author research. Paideuma has remained the official academic journal of the society, offering a picture of Pound research as integrated into the context of articles on other modernists contemporary with him and later.
2014 proved to be a turning point for the EPS, mainly due to Preda's changes of policy. She found that since Paideuma was not a dedicated journal any longer, tying the society membership to it did not serve the society well, but created an ambiguous state of affairs, which was likely to create confusion. All through Terrell's and Hatlen's leadership, the EPS and NPF had been sibling organisations hosted by the same university and managed by the same people. However, after Hatlen's passing away, the research interests of the scholars leading the NPF at the University of Maine were directed towards modernism as a whole and Paideuma reflected this change. It became of paramount importance for Preda to sort out the membership issue and create a clear situation for scholars who wished to be members of an author society, not necessarily subscribers to a journal on modernism in general. In order to achieve this, she created a website for the society (http://ezrapoundsociety.org) which she used as a primary administrative tool. People interested in becoming members could register on the site and pay a modest fee per year. The sum of these fees would help the society pay for its expenses: two awards (books and articles) and hosting for the website. She took the opportunity to update the society by-laws and create new regulations for the book and article awards. At the same time, she opened an account for the society at a British bank.
Since 2013, the society has been particularly active in panel organising for various conferences: Demetres Tryphonopoulos continued to coordinate two panels for each of the MLA and ALA annual events. At the same time, Preda organized panels for Louisville, as well as for conferences in Europe: two panels for the meeting of the British Association for Modernist Studies, a panel for the BLAST celebration in Bath, and two panels for the Brunnenburg conference. Increased numbers of scholars availed themselves of the advantage of going to a conference as part of a society group rather than alone. In this way, they could be certain that their presentations would be delivered in a focused environment, benefitting from a public interested in their topic.
Additionally Preda started a new dedicated periodical for members: Make It New was launched at the same time with the society website in May 2014. The aim of the new serial was to inform members of society activities (conferences and awards) as well as announce and review new publications on or related to Ezra Pound. Make It New was not designed to replace Paideuma, but rather supplement it with current information of interest. Hence the velocity of publication was much greater, aiming to respond quickly to the mass and quality of new publications/ conferences/ events on Ezra Pound. If Paideuma in 2014 had been an annual publication for almost a decade, Make It New was a digital quarterly focused on reviews, reports and announcements. What Preda did not foresee at the time was the speed with which Make It New would grow. The first number had 35 pages, suitable for a 'little magazine.' The second almost doubled that, reaching 62 pages. The third and the fourth reached 85 and 90 pages respectively. This growth coincided with a high interest in Pound's work all over the world. The bibliographic work which Preda and Archie Henderson started in March 2015 found that 2014 had witnessed four books and 47 articles on Pound published in English alone. The development of MIN compelled Preda to re-think its publication arrangements: in February 2015, she decided to create a dedicated website for the magazine (http://makeitnew.ezrapoundsociety.org) which would allow it to grow without encumbering the society website.
Rethinking the issues of the society identity, membership, by-laws and goals, Preda proposed a number of projects to the Pound scholar community, hoping to spark collaborations that would serve members in the future. The first such instance was The Cantos Project, whose website was launched in October 2014 (http://thecantosproject.org). She created the new platform, conceiving it as a construction site for a new digital companion to The Cantos and thus attracted a great deal of attention from fellow modernists. The first Companion published by Carroll Terrell in 1980 and 1984 had been possible with the collaboration of the scholars of his generation. The Cantos Project aims to achieve a similar result in the digital medium, which is much more flexible and potentially richer in possibilities. What we want is a comprehensive, updateable critical apparatus to the poem, which should serve our research. The hypertext would also reduce and simplify the task of student preparation of a canto and thus make it possible for them to be taught in courses and seminars, even at undergraduate level.
Preda then took the step of improving the communication networks of the society. Justin Kishbaugh had created an account for it on Facebook at the end of 2013. This move, contested at the time, benefited the society, since people all over the world started following its activities. The various announcements and news had better visibility and received improved responses not only from scholars but also from the general public. The society website climbed to the top of the google listings, so that it became a reliable place to post news and serve with quick reference. Scholars began to use the society website for conference information or bibliographic updates. Preda's step at the end of 2014 was to set up with Dylan Hock a new modern mailing list for the society, which she used for announcements and calls for papers.
At the end of 2014 then, the society had become fully independent. It had its own home (the society website), its own serial (Make It New), its own mailing list and bank account. It also started its first collaborative effort (The Cantos Project).
During 2015, the society continued to work towards its goal of providing a support framework for research in Pound studies. In March, isolated strands of work converged towards more outline in the bibliographic project, a massive task, which will stay with us for years to come. Archie Henderson was a prime mover in this area. He had first provided a bibliography of Plays on Ezra Pound in the summer of 2014, now available on the society website in public access; then, he actively contributed to a general bibliography of English language scholarship on Ezra Pound. By the end of 2015, nearly complete bibliographies were available for the period 2015-2004, allowing us to draw conclusions about the ways we have been reading the poet for the past decade. The Henderson/Preda bibliography also kept pace with publications during 2015 in real time, so that at any point during the year, researchers had a full picture of books and articles published (7 books and 46 articles in journals and collections by December).
Claudio Sansone, under the benevolent eye of Massimo Bacigalupo, continued to work on a bibliography of scholarship in Italian, which had begun in 2014 and which is being currently developed in stages and published in Make It New. In December, Preda took a few days to update and modernize the society website. She transferred the Italian bibliography (called OBIPS: Online Bibliography of Italian Pound Scholarship) to a zone she now dedicated to Pound and Italy. The move was necessary - it now enables Sansone to supplement the bibliography for future years, besides going back in time. At the end of 2015, OBIPS listed book-length studies, editions, translations and collective volumes published in Italian between 2015 and 1980.
The second important scholarly project started in 2015 was the digitization of Ezra Pound's Poetry and Prose: Contributions to Periodicals (11 volumes). Preda asked for copyright clearance from New Directions and Mary de Rachewiltz in May 2015. The permission being given in June, Preda announced the project at the Ezra Pound International Conference (EPIC) which took place at Brunnenburg in July. By the end of the year, the articles of the first volume were scanned, placed in the society google repository, and linked to their titles available on the society website.
At the beginning of December 2015, Preda received the good news that her application for a five-year grant to work on The Cantos Project had been approved. For the first time, it is possible to predict that 2016 will be a year of consolidation, in which work for the four society projects, started during 2014 and 2015, will be pushed forward. The grant will make it possible for Preda to prioritize The Cantos Project over everything else, but at the same time recognize that it is bound to both the English language bibliography and the scanning of Poetry and Prose, as well as to OBIPS: all four are connected in a network, making it possible that information and skills assembled and developed in one will profit the others.
Updated by Roxana Preda
30 June 2018
Warmest thanks for substantial help in writing this report are due to Gail Sapiel (NPF), Barry Ahearn, Rick Catrone and Demetres Tryphonopoulos.
Photos by Walter Baumann.
Ahearn, Barry and Hugh Witemeyer. “The Ezra Pound Society.” Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. Ed. Matthew Bruccoli. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 455-456.
Bulletin Board Paideuma 8 1 (Spring 1979)
Bulletin Board Paideuma 21 1-2 (Spring Fall 1992)
Bulletin Board Paideuma 21 3 (Winter 1992)
Ezra Pound Society materials.pdf (compiled by Gail Sapiel)
Hatlen, Burt. “Carroll Terrell and Great American Poetry Wars.” Paideuma 26 2-3 (Fall/Winter1997): 33-62.
Tryphonopoulos, Demetres. “Announcing Paideuma’s ‘New’ Documentary Section.” Paideuma 38 (March 2012).