Unlike poets of previous eras, who allowed that rhetoric might serve the interests of poetry, modernist poets typically disparaged rhetoric as debased and corrupting—a source of overblown diction and of appeals to public taste that undermined serious art. Yet if rhetoric was a suspect means of addressing the public, how might poets procure an audience beyond the coterie—an audience of sufficient size to confer legitimacy and prestige? This problem vexed William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound, but their efforts to resolve it—implicated in the staging of a banquet to promote Poetry magazine—exposed the contradictions and costs inherent in their phobic conception of rhetoric.

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