Ezra Pound

“Either move or be moved.” – Ezra Pound

Of all the major literary figures of the twentieth century, Ezra Pound has been one of the most controversial.  He has however, also been one of modern poetry’s most important contributors.
He was born in Hailey, Idaho, on October 30, 1885.
T.S. Eliot, said about Pound – “…is more responsible for the twentieth-century revolution in poetry than is any other individual.”


Pound would write that he was: “concerned solely with language and presentation”.
His aim was clarity: a fight against abstraction and romanticism.

With regard to his poetry, he focused on

Three Principles:
1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

This can be seen most obviously in his poem:

In a Station of the Metro

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

These PRINCIPLES and his vivid imagery is also seen in:

These fought, in any case (from Hugh Selwyn Mauberly)

These fought, in any case,
and some believing, pro domo, in any case …
Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later …
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some pro patria, non dulce non et decor” …
walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.
Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;
fortitude as never before
frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.
Some information from e.notes.com:

Ezra Pound was one of the expatriates, disillusioned with the world and with the sort of nationalism that had led so many countries into a devastating and senseless war.  The expatriates sought to explore their own artistic work, to challenge the nature of their work, and, in many cases (certainly in the case of Pound), to “make it new.”  In this poem, Pound explores his devotion to art by creating two alter-egos to review his own career and his beliefs about his own art, poetry.

The mood of this poem is negative, disillusioned.  As the speaker outlines the attempt to “resuscitate the dead art/
Of poetry”, he alludes to both the temptuous travels of Odysseus and the horrors of WWI.  There is a feeling of being lost.   The tone is self-depracating and critical.  The first stanza oulines the goals of the speaker as being “Wrong from the start”.  Near the end, the second alter-ego quotes: “I was/“And I no more exist;/“Here drifted/“An hedonist.”  Again, the tone is critical and the feeling left is a sense of uselessness.

The diction in this poem, as in all of Pound’s, is concrete.  Despite the use of allusions, there is little symbolism developed and a lack of flowery or overly-descriptive passages.  Pound, like many of the artists of the time, was a minimalist, removing all but the most necessary words from his work.  He uses free verse and avoids traditional poetic diction.

Pound expressed the disgust and rejection of British society which had been building in him during World War I. Increasingly at odds with a culture that had embraced sordid economic gain at the expense of art and lives—ten million people died in the war, and for nothing, in Pound’s view—Pound used Hugh Selwyn Mauberley to pen a sharp, critical view of England.

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