For the Wrong Reason
by Mary de Rachewiltz
EP 12: MARY DE RACHEWILTZ’S new book of verse, FOR THE WRONG REASON, is a lyric tour de force, whose uncanny rhythms and many moods explore a new threshold of synthesis in poetry. Elusive and yet concrete, what she leaves unsaid is haunted by what is said. From love to “little men [who] die like flies,” she covers with sensuous intellect and ecstatic nuance a wide range of human emotions. Being the daughter and translator of one of the greatest poets in the twentieth century has not prevented her from becoming a poet in her own right and in her own time.
Archie Henderson for Publishers Weekly writes: “Though she has written and translated verse in Italian and English for decades, de Rachewiltz remains best known as the daughter of Ezra Pound, and for her well-received memoir of Pound and his circle, Discretions(1971). Here she makes her own the compact, innovative forms created in part by her father and in part by his disciples, especially the English poet Basil Bunting. Though individual poems focus on Italian art and landscape, on Egyptian myths and on romantic passion, most of the poems also touch on late life: ‘In old age / it matters not / if you were / in company / of love or alone.’ De Rachewiltz conceives her speaker’s life as a continuous, difficult journey, one that survives (if only barely) translation into a retrospective and paradoxically playful lyric mode: ‘Each Mary must from hearthstone / to heart stone into the ovens / wander and search the ashes / for the bone luz and the flint.’ Evocations of mountain and farm life bear the welcome marks of long reflection, though some suggest, too, the perils of working in relative isolation; a promising poem about inherited anger, ‘Of the House that Pays,’ ends jarringly ‘as we sail and sink into madness.’ But other poems combine verbal play with an elegiac tendency whose odd bluntness works perfectly: ‘I sit here under grey / holding walls / in an old skirt. Mourning. / Not knowing the taste of good food.’ At once refined, terse and strongly felt, de Rachewiltz’s poetry is strange yet not unfamiliar.”
MARY DE RACHEWILTZ was born in Brixen/Bressanone and grew up speaking a Tyrolean dialect. At the age of twelve she was sent to a Convent school in Florence to learn Italian, French, Greek and Latin. At the outbreak of W.W. II her education was continued privately for two years by three formidable teachers in Rapallo: Ezra Pound, the Rev. Desmond Chute, and Olga Rudge. Then she had to return to the Tyrol and the end of the war found her working in a war hospital in Cortina.
In 1946, in Rome, De Rachewiltz married an Egyptologist and together they restored an old castle which became their home. In 1967, she moved with the Pound Archive to Yale and for over 20 years served as its Curator in the Beinecke Library. Her main interests remain farming and translating into Italian her favorite poets: Ezra Pound, H.D., e.e. cummings, Robinson Jeffers, Marianne Moore, Denise Levertov, and others. In 1971, Atlantic-Little Brown and Faber and Faber published her memoir, Discretions — Ezra Pound: Father and Teacher, reprinted in 1975 as a New Directions Paperback. She has published five volumes of poetry in Italian with Vanni Scheiwiller, Milan, and Raffaelli, Rimini. Her Selected Poems: Whose World was published by St. Andrews Press in 1998. FOR THE WRONG REASON is her second book of poetry published in the United States.
First edition paperback, May 2002, 64 pp., sewn, bound, and printed in Italy, with a two-color cover and a black and white photograph of the author on the frontispiece.