Study Guide

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

By Ezra Pound

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Introduction

Have you ever felt like certain books or movies don't really deserve to be as popular as they are? Do you ever think that maybe the world would be a better place if good art were rewarded more often? Well if you do, Ezra Pound is totally with you. If you don't feel this way at all, and think that the majority rules when it comes to artistic quality, Pound is definitely not with you. After all, the dude was modernist just like T.S. Eliot or Wallace Stevens, and he wrote during a time when he saw classical art getting its rear-end whipped by trashy novels and radio soaps.

Like our friend T.S., Ezra wasn't all that happy about the situation. So in 1920, he decided to write the poem "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" to express his frustration with the crumminess of modern culture. Basically, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley is a sort of poetic persona Pound made up to focus his frustration. It's basically the same thing T.S. Eliot did with J. Alfred Prufrock, where you have this modern guy going through life and showing you all the modern world's problems along the way.

The similarity doesn't just end there, though. Like Eliot, Pound also likes to jump around a lot in his poem, shifting between different subjects without any clear links between them. What you end up with is a sort of collage that a young Pound made to bring together everything he thought was bad about the modern world and everything he still thought was worth preserving.

What is Hugh Selwyn Mauberley About and Why Should I Care?

Deep down, "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is all about feeling at odds with the world. And who among us hasn't felt that at some point. Nowadays, any career coach will tell you that becoming successful is all about networking and creating your own "brand" so you can sell yourself to other people in every second of every social interaction. Bashful people need not apply. Now some of us might think that this kind of world suits us just fine; but others might not want to spend their lives selling themselves as if they were a product.

The great thing about "Mauberley" is that even though the poem mostly whines about how terrible modern culture is, its writer (Ezra Pound) wasn't satisfied with sitting around and feeling hard done by (we're looking at you, Eliot). He knew he didn't fit very well into the modern world, so he decided that the world would have to change to suit his needs.

So he went ahead and completely revolutionized the publishing industry in the '20s. There was hardly any important literature coming out at this time that didn't have Pound's fingerprints all over it, either as a writer, editor, or promoter. It's almost impossible to think of anyone today wielding the kind of publishing power Pound did back in the day, especially someone under the age of forty.

It's totally cool to criticize something if you're willing to step up and try to change it for the better. And that's exactly what Pound did in his poetry career. That kind of fighting spirit kind of makes you want to ask, "What do I stand for?" Think about it for a while if you need to, and give our "Mauberley" learning guide a good read while you're at it. Who knows? You might just be inspired to go off on a poetic rant and try to change the world.

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Resources

Websites

Ezra Pound at Poets.org
For a smooth, trivia-packed account of Pound's life and his place in modern poetry, check out this site.

Pound's Modern American Poets Page
Check out some great poems and commentary comin' at you from the University of Illinois.

Great Timetable
For a clear timetable of Pound's life and some other cool links, follow us here.

Video

Italian Interview with Ezra Pound
Finding film of Ezra ain't easy, so enjoy his grandfatherly kookiness. Just make sure to click cc to get captions.

Great Ezra Pound Documentary
That's right folks. After reading such a tough poem, just lean back and enjoy a great doc about Pound.

Audio

Pound reads "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley"
That's right. Here's the man himself reading "Mauberley." Just try not to look his picture straight in the eyes.

Part 1 of "The Trial of Ezra Pound"
This is a great piece laying out all the details of Ezra Pound's trial for treason.

Pound Reads his (In)famous Usura Canto
Pound wasn't the biggest fan of lending out money with huge interest rates (usura), and here's the poem to prove it. Just listen to the venom in that voice.

Images

Pound, Old and Haggard
That's pretty much what you need to know. The guy didn't age well in a mental institution.

Younger, More Confident Pound
This would be closer to the guy who wrote "Mauberley."

Pound's Mugshot
Seriously, this pic was taken by authorities who caught Pound shortly after the end of WWII.

Articles & Interviews

Pound's Daughter Doesn't Want Neo-Fascists Using her Father's Name
This article appeared in the London newspaper The Guardian just last year.

Ezra Pound, Treason, Fascism, and Anti-Semitism
In addition to being found guilty of treason and supporting Italian fascism, Ezra Pound also had a few issues when it came to Jewish people.

Pound Interviewed by The Paris Review
Here you'll find some great comments from the horse's mouth, especially about his time working as a secretary for W.B. Yeats.

Books

The Ezra Pound Encyclopedia
Yup, definitely your one-stop-shop for all things Pound, including some great criticism. And you can read it for free!

ABC of Reading (by Ezra Pound)
Yeah, Pound's principles went so deep he basically felt like he had to retrain modern people how to read in general. It's definitely worth a look if you're curious.

Ezra Pound: Poet by A. David Moody
There's nothing too moody about Moody's reading. He's pretty much spot-on when it comes to Pound.

Movies & TV

In Search of Ezra Pound (TV)
It only ran for 2 episodes, but this little series documents the life and work of Ezra Pound with some readings and dramatic scenes. No word on why imdb.com decided to stick a pic of the Looney Tunes on its main page, though…

Ezra Pound: American Odyssey
This is a solid meat-and-potatoes doc following Ezra Pound's life from childhood to death. And yeah, a couple of interesting things happened between those two times.