Ezra Pound

June 16, 2006


American expatriate, poet, musician, critic, and economist
Major figure of the modernist movement in early 20th century poetry
Driving force behind several modernist movements, notably Imagism and Vorticism
Quarreled with Amy Lowell on what Imagism poetry should be
W. B. Yeats’ secretary
Largely responsible for the appearance of Imagism and Vorticism during WWI
One of the first poets to successfully employ free verse
Motto was ‘Make It New’
Introduced Provencal and Chinese poetry to English speaking audiences
Important figure for the poets of the Beat generation
Born in Hailey, Idaho but his family soon moved east, settling in a Philadelphia suburb
Father worked as an assistant assayer of the U.S. Mint: Pound’s confident individuality may have stemmed from his father’s strong support
At 15 years old, Pound entered the University of Pennsylvania where he met William Carlos Williams
Briefly courted Hilda Doolittle
Early poetry tended toward the ornate: influenced by his studies in medieval Provencal and Spanish verse
Soon rejected this early mode (later referred to his first book as ‘stale cream-puffs’)
WWI shattered Pound’s belief in modern western civilization 
Supporter of Mussolini and anti-Semitism: revisited America and lobbied U.S. congressmen in an attempt to avert the oncoming WWII, began regular shortwave radio broadcasts to America criticizing President Roosevelt and the Allied ware effort and expressing anti-Semitic views
Was indicted for treason and arrested by American authorities following the defeat of Germany and placed in the U.S. Army Disciplinary Training Center near Pisa where he was confined to a solitary steel pen exposed to the elements and suffered a physical breakdown
Was again indicted for treason but was found medically unfit to stand trial: was committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Criminally Insane where he would stay utnil 1958: was visited by many leading American poets
The efforts of Frost, Hemingway, Eliot and others led to Pound’s release and return to Italy
In later years Pound suffered frequently from depression and had long bouts of extensive silence
He once said,

“I did not enter into silence. Silence captured me.”

Was stimulated into speech by a visit from Allen Ginsbergand at that time apologized for his earlier anti-Semitism as ‘that stupid, suburban prejudice’
Died in Venice at the age of eighty-seven

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead / I played about the front gate, pulling flowers. / You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse, / You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums. / And we went on living in the village of Chokan: / Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you. / I never laughed, being bashful. / Lowering my head, I looked at the wall. / Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
At fifteen I stopped scowling, / I desired my dust to be mingled with yours / Forever and forever and forever. / Why should I climb the lookout?
At sixteen you departed, / You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies, / And you have been gone five months. / The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
You dragged your feet when you went out. / By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses, / Too deep to clear them away! / The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind. / The paired butterflies are already yellow with August / Over the grass in the West garden; / They hurt me. I grow older. / If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang, / Please let me know beforehand, / And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fo-Sa.
-Rihaku (Li T’ai Po), eighth century A.D.

-The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter (in whole)

The tree has entered my hands, / The sap has ascended my arms, / The tree has grown in my breast- / Downward, / The branches grow out of me, like arms.
Tree you are, / Moss you are, / You are violets with wind above them. / A child – so high – you are, / And all this is folly to the world.

-A Girl (in whole)

No, no! Go from me. I have left her lately. I will not spoil my sheath with lesser brightness, / For my surrounding air hath a new lightness; / Slight are her arms, yet they have bound me straightly / And left me cloaked as with a gauze of aether; / As with sweet leaves; as with subtle clearness. / Oh, I have picked up magic in her nearness / To sheathe me half in half the things that sheathe her. / No, no! Go from me. I have still the flavour, / Soft as spring wind that’s come from birchen bowers. / Green come the shoots, aye April in the branches, / As winter’s wound with her sleight hand she staunches, / Hath of the trees a likeness of the savour: / As white as their bark, so white this lady’s hours.

-A Virginal (in whole)

Title refers to the plucked keyboard instrument on which such a song as this might have been accompanied

I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman- / I have detested you long enough. / I come to you as a grown child / Who has had a pig-headed father; / I am old enough now to make friends. / It was you that broke the new wood, / Now is a time for carving. / We have one sap and one root- / Let there be commerce between us.

-A Pact (in whole)

Initially resisted Whitman’s influence until 1909 when he wrote from Europe that “I am for the first time able to read Whitman… I see him as America’s poet. He is America.”

“An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. I use the term ‘complex’ rather in the technical sense employed by the newer psychologists, such as Hart, though we might not agree absolutely in our application.
It is the presentation of such a ‘complex’ instantaneiously wich gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.
It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.
All this, however, some may consider open to debate. The immediate necessity is to tabulate A LIST OF DON’TS for those beginning to write verses. But I can not put all of them into Mosaic negative.
To begin with, consider the tree rules recorded by Mr. Flint, not as dogma 0 never consider anything as dogma- but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.
Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work. Consider the discrepancies between the actual writing of the Greek poets and dramatists, and the theories of the Graeco-Roman grammarians, concocted to explain their metres.

-A Few Dos and Don’ts

The vortex is the point of maximum energy.
It represents, in mechanics, the greatest efficience.
We use the words ‘greatest efficiency’ in the precise sense- as they would be used in a text book of MECHANICS.
You may think of a man as that toward which perception moves. You may think of him as the TOY of circumstance, as the plastic substance RECEIVING impressions.
OR you may think of him as DIRECTING  a certain fluid force against circumstance, as CONCEIVING instead of merely observing and reflecting.


The Cantos (1922)

Incomplete poem in 120 sections
Themes of economics, governance, and culture
Includes Chinese characters as well as quotations in European languages

In a Station of the Metro (1926)

“A poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.”

“Three years ago in Paris I got out of a “metro” train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion. And that evening I found, suddenly, the expression. I do not mean that I found words, but there came an equation… not in speech, but in little splotches of colour…”


The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals, on a wet, black bough.


2 Responses to “Ezra Pound”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Nice compilation of poets, but you inverted the materials on Ezra Pound. You have the poem “In a Station…” listed under Quotations. And then the quotations under the poem title.

    No biggie, just a cut and paste thing.

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