Today’s New York Times includes a small paid obituary, which reads, in its entirety, as follows: “Omar Shakespear Pound, Died peacefully at Princeton, NJ on 2 March 2010, aged 83, after long illness. Survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughters Katharine and Oriana, grandsons Ben and Joshua.”
Shall we parse/deconstruct this fine and succinct piece of literary history? Omar Pound bore the name of his putative father, the poet Ezra Pound. A gifted poet and translator in his own right, Omar Pound was the son of the artist Dorothy Shakespear, a close associate of Wyndham Lewis, founder of the Vorticist movement. Dorothy was the daughter of a celebrated lover of the greatest of poets, William Butler Yeats.
Dorothy’s art work appeared in seminal issues of the Vorticist Bible, BLAST magazine, and Dorothy, of course, was the wife of Ezra Pound. By the time Pound had taken up with his lifelong lover, the violinist Olga Rudge, Dorothy Shakespear had fled to Italy and given birth to Omar Shakespear Pound, whom many suspected was not the biological son of Ezra Pound.
No matter, for Omar was a loyal son to Pound, seeing him through his grotesque alliance with Mussolini, the anti-Semitism and traitorous radio broadcasts that led to Pound’s detention by the U.S. Army, his incarceration at St. Elizabeth’s and his exile in Rapallo. We might pause to consider the penance contained in Omar’s paid obit: grandsons named Ben and Joshua, leaders of the Old Testament tribes of Israel.
I have a lifelong friend, the critic and curator Alan Jones, author of the seminal book The Art Dealers, curator of the only show of Jeff Koons‘ works done exclusively by that artist’s own hand (student work from Chicago), and a man so enthralled by the legacy of Joyce, Pound, Yeats and their circle that he long ago married royalty and gave up the New York art world that had nurtured him, forever.
Alan makes me think that to drown in the cultural past might be a better fate than a world of navel-gazing panels at dull art fairs. The sins and seductions Alan fell for had consequences, at least. And the death notices of that world, like the one for Omar Pound today, are modest and invite the sweet, subtle probe of collective memory.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).