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Homer Pound and Idaho

Homer Pound letter
Homer Pound letter

In the New York Times Book Review of July 21, 1918, the unidentified reviewer of Ezra Pound’s newly published Lustra took special note of Pound’s Idaho heritage: “Something over thirty years ago, when Idaho was still a Territory, and the rush to its gold fields was almost as eager and turbulent as had been in the California of two generations before, when the shake-roofed cabin of the miner and stock raiser had only recently succeeded to the teepee of the Indian, Ezra Pound was born in one of the deep-cut valleys, beneath the fantastic skylines of the Sawtooth Range.”

Pound’s father, Homer, had arrived in the rough mining town of Hailey, Idaho as the government land recorder bringing his new wife from Washington, D.C. She gave birth to Ezra in October 1885 and took the sickly child away, never to return, in 1886. Ezra Pound went on to notoriety and acclaim as an American reinventing poetry in Europe.

The reviewer noted, “It is a long trail, indeed, from such a far outpost of civilization to post-medieval France and Italy, via the sophisticate circles of the art world of modern Paris and London….” After summarizing, quoting and commenting on the published poems, he concludes by again comparing Pound’s reliance on a European past with his brief-as-it-was pioneer heritage: “[It is] a far cry indeed from the virgin Idaho Valley, under the shadow of the Sawtooth Range, to this soil, deep-mulched in tradition.” And adds, “Ezra Pound has made a dramatic flight, whose significance we as yet scarcely grasp. He is still a young man, his flying days are far from over. One wonders will he ever wing his way, burdened as he is with the spoil of antiquity, back to the wilderness?”

One appreciative reader of this review was the proud father, who kept scrapbooks of his son’s press clippings. Homer Pound, now assistant assayer at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, dashed off a brief note of appreciation to the editor of the book review section. “I was very much pleased,” he wrote. “Some one who knows Idaho, evidently. The reference to the ‘Saw Tooth Range’ was particularly interesting.”

He then predicted, “Some future day that Saw Tooth range will be one of the places for travelers to visit. It is the Switzerland of America. I wish I were there now. Its simply grand.”

Homer’s enthusiasm for Idaho’s scenery matched his appreciation of his son’s literary accomplishments. This was not the first time that he had responded to newspaper mentions of his son’s poetry. Ultimately, his vision of an Idaho mountain resort came to fruition in the creation of Sun Valley, near Hailey, by railroad executive Averell Harriman within two decades.

Supplementing the University of Idaho Library’s Ezra Pound Collection, a memorial to Idaho’s native-born poet, this Homer Pound letter was acquired through the financial support of the Library Associates of the University of Idaho.

Written in 1998 for the UI Library’s Digital Memories website.


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