Friday, March 2, 2007

Uncovering Ezra Pound?s roots

Pound family?s time in valley featured in academic tome

Express Staff Writer

?Ezra Pound and American Identity,? edited by Hugh Witemeyer.

"Paideuma, Volume 34, Numbers 2 & 3, Special Edition Ezra Pound and American Identity," edited by Hugh Witemeyer, appeared on my desk recently. Paideuma is published by The National Poetry Foundation, a book publisher founded in 1971 at the University of Maine, in the city of Orono. Today, it publishes poetry by individual authors, as well as journals and scholarly work devoted to Ezra Pound.

On the cover of the book is Ezra Pound's birthplace in a new shot taken by Hailey-based photographer Dev Mukh Khalsa. The home, at the corner of Second Ave. and Pine St. in Hailey, was preserved by the Ezra Pound Foundation several years ago, to a style that is in keeping with the decorative trends of 1885, when the future poet was born there. The house, later owned by Roberta McKercher's family, became the Hailey Cultural Center, and in 2005 became a part of the Sun Valley Center for Arts. As the southern base for the organization, it is now known as The Center, Hailey.

But it is to Ezra Pound's heritage that "Paideuma" returns in this volume. The first chapter, by Tim Redman, the author of "Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism," points out some mistakes that have showed up in other reports of Pound's years in Idaho.

Though he was an infant when his family left the area, Pound's family had an impact in several aspects of the town of Hailey, including the mining business and through the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which still stands. Before Ezra was born his father, Homer, grandfather, Thaddeus—a congressman (and former lt. governor) from Wisconsin—and uncle David Foote, all businessmen who owned great tracks of land, mining claims, served in a number of public positions while in Hailey. In fact, due to Thaddeus' position as the chairman of the U.S. Congress' Committee on Public Land, President Chester A. Arthur appointed Homer as register of the U.S. land office opened in Hailey.

Homer arrived in May 1883, just a few weeks after the newly opened Union Pacific and Oregon Shortline was completed. He had two new houses built, one became his mother's, and the other is where his son Ezra was born two years later.

Meanwhile, Hailey grew, its population swelling to 3,500. By 1887, Wood River mining gains were exceeding $2 million a year.

Pound was raised hearing stories of these times, especially about the political fights regarding the silver business in the 1880s. The contention from several authors in the book's essays is that the town of Hailey was highly influential in how Pound looked at politics, economics and America during his life.

Redman writes: "On the impact of Hailey and the West on his own personality Pound is clear: 'in timber, horse fodder, mines, railways, ranching and agriculture, I might reasonably say that I had received personal and confidential reports on these matters at a very early age.'"

Also in this treasure trove of a volume is a wonderful letter from Ezra's mother, Isabelle Pound, to her mother, written in 1885 about a buggy trip to the Camas Prairie by way of Deer Creek.

"The drive was delightful and merry, and the scenery fine. At one point we had a picture before us like Beirstadt's Rocky Mountains, peak after peak until we could just distinguish the outline of the furthest in the distance and near us we could see the deep valley. I was so much engaged watching to what depths the horses would go in (the stream) that my pedal attachments were submerged and all the things in the wagon, our lunch rolls etc. Thereafter we looked like the moving panorama of the great American washday."

The volume is a bit hard to come by, though both The Community Library in Ketchum and the Hailey Public Library are planning on acquiring it.

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