Although ‘The Annals’ (documentation for a forthcoming Variorum Edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos) are going to be published separately, its ultimate context should be outlined in order to highlight the relationship between variant readings and documentation (Annals entries). The Variorum Project was conceived in 1979-80 as a simple collation of all witnesses against a base text (ND-F&F, 1975 ) – from presumed setting copy on – including the poet’s recorded readings as well as the English texts of both Mary de Rachewiltz’s and Eva Hesse’s bilingual editions. Ultimately it will also include image files for each Canto, containing bibliographies of witnesses collated and stemmae for each Canto, in addition to a full bibliography of witnesses and reproductions of de luxe and illustrated editions.
In the course of on-going research it became obvious that distinctions needed to be made between printing errors, authorial intentions/emendations, and editorial interventions. Then too, there is the problem of Pound’s so-called inaccuracies or mistakes, whose evaluation sets the poet’s methodology against the various and arbitrary, critical benchmarks invoked by friends, family, scholars, and editors/publishers. The only possible solution was to trawl through as much of the correspondence as possible in order to reconstruct and document the evolution and publishing history of the poem(s). As many unpublished letters as possible, whether in public or private archives, were ransacked, not to mention literary agents’ and publishers’ production files. The excerpts thus gleaned also show that the relationships, personalities, and agendas of those involved did influence the state of the text as it has come down to us.
The following is a decidedly selective demonstration, using only fourteen lines from a single Canto. Not all variants are recorded here as that would obscure a larger and more general apprehension of the Variorum’s purpose. In the present display the effect of economic pressures on the epic’s publishing history, together with egregious editorial intervention, can be seen, side by side. Authorial emendations were obliterated when the F&F edition was superceded by an inferior ND text, and that decision was made on the basis of copyright (capitalist) interests. Aesthetic concerns are not uncommonally subordinated to corporate gain.
The second point, has to do with posthumous, scholarly/editorial interventions (however well-intentioned) which corrupted the text even further. Concepts of printing conventions and factual correctness have never been carved in stone. Pound’s often contrary experimentation sets itself against unthinking conformity. Mike O’Donnell, Eva Hesse’s husband (who had undertaken most of her source research), was wont to say: The trouble with Ezra was that he never got anything right. The real question is; Correct? –– in whose estimation, and according to what agenda.
As well as this mock-up for 14 lines of Canto IV, links are available to the ‘Bibliography of Witnesses Collated’ for that canto and its Stemma (graphic genealogy). Wherever alternative readings (underlined) for any given line exists, a button/link offers access to each variant and its bibliographic reference (title and date of publication) in short-form. The full form reference can be verified in ‘Bibliography of Witnesses Collated’. A separate link summons up whatever commentary on that variant is available from the Annals (A), as well as editorial notes. In the completed publication such documentation will also carry internal links to items in an Annotated Index.
Obviously editorial procedures for Annals entries require clarification. Ezra Pound’s name is not endlessly repeated: a letter “to J. Laughlin”, etc. is assumed to be “from E.P” and “from Hugh Kenner” etc. is taken to be “to E.P.”. The poet’s eccentric indentations and lay-out have not been reproduced. Spelling and dialect renderings, however, have been preserved as faithfully as possible. The syntax, spelling, etc. of all correspondents also remains intact. Their personalities, backgrounds, and value systems – as well as those of all other collaborators, are relevant.
86Saffron sandal so petals the narrow foot: Hymenæus Io!
Hymen, Io Hymenæe! Aurunculeia!
One scarlet flower is cast on the blanch-white stone.
And Sō-Gyoku, saying:
90“This wind, sire, is the king’s wind,
This wind is wind of the palace,
Shaking imperial water-jets.”
And Hsiang, opening his collar:
“This wind roars in the earth’s bag,
95it lays the water with rushes.”
No wind is the king’s wind.
Let every cow keep her calf.
“This wind is held in gauze curtains...”
No wind is the king’s...
Publishing the Annals separately, and in anticipation of a complete Variorum, makes sense in that entries, in themselves, constitute an independent collection of raw research material which can be mined in several ways. Reading from beginning to end would be a bit much for most; but selectively, it is possible to concentrate on periods of intense activity, or the influence of outside forces – either pressures of commercial publication, or the machinations of the so-called ‘Correction Committee’. More importantly, the Annals offer insight into the creative process itself.
A Variorum, however, cannot be realized without financial support for the professional creation of a platform which links existing fields of data and presents them in user-friendly form. Marking up the mind-numbingly large number of links required in order to realize a hypertext-Variorum is, obviously, an enormous undertaking. The data already exists – it merely needs be knit together.
The Annals, as well as the Variorum, itself (in which they play only a minor part), obviously constitute nothing more than a rough and provisional map of yet obscure territories and are meant as the basis for a communal project which can only be completed and corrected by anyone wishing to be involved. To this end there is a separate ‘information’, email address for the website to which either I, or a literary executor, will pay close attention and acknowledge all contributors, when corrections/additions are entered.