THREE ON THE TOWER: The Lives and Works of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams by Louis Simpson

THREE ON THE TOWER: The Lives and Works of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This examination of the relationships among the three magisterial intellects of modern poetry the three who ""seem to have touched all the bases"" -- should be read in concert with Karl Shapiro's The Poetry Wreck (p. 108). Simpson, like Shapiro, is a poet of some distinction and while his tone is more respectful (Shapiro makes whipping boys of TSE and EP), he comes to the same conclusion -- that Williams, being ""more attuned to the age"" is the 20th century American poet par excellence, while Pound and Eliot are nco-fascist, anti-Semitic anachronisms. Or, in any case, Pound is terribly misguided and the Cantos of questionable merit; Eliot, the ""classicist. . . royalist. . . anglo-catholic. . . . "" is solemnly overstuffed and so are the quartets. Each man is treated separately in a mini-biography, leading off with Pound, the determined young pretender who, dressed a la Ronsard, was the laughing-stock of his provincial school; he quite quickly became a doyen of letters, working out of London and Rapallo. It's pathetic to read the exchange of letters between him and WCW -- the timid obstetrician struggling foolishly to mime that breezy, brash style. Eliot, too, once tried his hand at an imitation of EP's headstrong criticism; Pound replied: ""You let me throw the bricks through the front window. You go in at the back door and take out the swag."" At last, Eliot gets the Nobel etc.; Pound, the Bollingen. . .and WCW, the homage of the Ginsberg generation. Rather a fairy tale of poetic knights slaying their critical dragons, with just deserts for each. Simpson has immensely enjoyed writing this book which will give his readers the same pleasure.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1975
Publisher: Morrow