Around 14 October 1916 Joyce thanked Ezra Pound for sending him a copy of Lustra.
Lustra, Pound’s first book of poetry for five years, was mainly a collection of poems that had already appeared in various periodicals. The poems indicate some of the similarities between the literary projects of Joyce and Pound, and the book faced the same printing and publication problems that Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had faced earlier in 1916.
From the time he first made contact with Joyce in December 1913 Ezra Pound had put a great deal of energy into promoting Joyce and his works, and was instrumental in getting Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man published, and later organising the serialisation of Ulysses in the Little Review and the Egoist. During the summer of 1916 Pound had used his influence and contacts in literary London to secure a Civil List grant for the penniless Joyce.
Though Pound and Joyce had only been in contact for two and a half years, and didn’t meet for the first time until June 1920, Lustra indicates some of the similarities between their ideas of about literature. According to Forrest Read, ‘In the poems of Lustra Pound was seeking a poetic representation of modernity, analogous to Joyce’s representations in the short story and the novel, by adopting such roles as Whitmanesque bard, public censor, exile, traditionalist, and realist.’
By 1916, Lustra had been accepted for publication by Elkin Mathews who had published Joyce’s Chamber Music in 1907. However, while the book was being printed Mathews’ reader submitted a damning report which concluded that the poems were ‘more fitted for the Waste Paper Basket than for the literary public,’ and Mathews’ printer balked at printing certain passages. As a result, Mathews marked sixteen poems which he wanted changed or deleted.
Pound engaged in a frantic round of correspondence in an effort to persuade Mathews to publish the book in its entirety, even using a contact in the Home Office to inquire how likely a prosecution would be. His main defence was that Mathews and his printer couldn’t be prosecuted for works that had already appeared in print, but Mathews wasn’t persuaded by this argument. The compromise solution was the publication of a private edition of the complete collection and, separately, a trade edition from which nine of the poems were deleted, which Pound referred to as the ‘castrato.’
The fact that only a short time before Pound had been fighting the same battle against printers and publishers on behalf of Joyce’s A Portrait meant that, as Forrest Read puts it, ‘At this point Pound’s and Joyce’s positions became identical and the struggle became not only theirs but the well-known struggle for realism in modern literature.’
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Read, Forrest (ed.): Pound/Joyce – The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce with Pound’s Essays on Joyce, London: Faber & Faber, 1968.