I recently wrote an essay against ad personam attacks on authors, so I was interested to read this essay in The New York Review of Books about how W.H. Auden rescued Ezra Pound's poetry from being removed from an anthology.
The headline — "Auden on No-Platforming Pound" — seems like click-bait, because the essay contains no account of any such thing. I'm all for denying fascists a platform, but not for censoring the publication of poetry, no matter who wrote it. I read books, not authors. And what Auden objected to, and prevented, was the erasing of Ezra Pound's poetry.
The editor Bennett Cerf, who attempted the erasure, said: "Pound, by his deliberate and consistent actions over a long period of years, sacrificed any claims, in my opinion, either to the title ‘poet’ or the title of ‘American.’" Nothing about the poetry, only its author, as though "poet" is a title rather than an occupation. This foreshadows the current fashion for "cancelling" the work of artists based not on the work, but on the personal behaviour, of the artists.
The essay is good, and, in this age of authors who see writing books as a way to call attention to themselves, I agree with Auden when he writes, in a letter to Cerf, "The whole case only confirms my long-held belief that it would be far better if all books were published anonymously."
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