“Pound’s recent unfinished epic, three cantos of which appear in the American edition of Lustra, proceeds by a very different method than that of Joyce in Ulysses. In appearance, it is a rag-bag of Mr. Pound’s reading in various languages, from which one fragment after another is dragged to light, and illuminated by the beauty of his phrase. [...] And yet the thing has, after one has read it once or twice, a positive coherence; it is an objective and reticent autobiography.”
T. S. Eliot. “A Note on Ezra Pound.” (To-Day, 4 Sept 1918).
The Three Cantos published in the Chicago magazine Poetry in June-July-August 1917 are Pound’s first attempt at beginning the long poem he had been thinking about since 1904-1905. He was not happy with them and started changing them even before they were published. Pound discarded them altogether when he reworked the material in 1923 for A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925). But the Three Cantos stayed in print in Poetry and his volume Lustra: rather than a false start, they are the laboratory of the cantos to come. Topics, themes, and images presented here were taken up again later at various points in the poem; the last part of Three Cantos III was reworked to be included in Canto I. If Pound had been looking for a way to begin, the writing of these “discarded” cantos was his way of experimenting with available possibilities.
Roxana Preda. The Cantos Project, 2015.