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About this poet

Ezra Pound is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry. In the early teens of the twentieth century, he opened a seminal exchange of work and ideas between British and American writers, and was famous for the generosity with which he advanced the work of such major contemporaries as W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D., James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and especially T. S. Eliot.

His own significant contributions to poetry begin with his promulgation of Imagism, a movement in poetry which derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry—stressing clarity, precision, and economy of language and foregoing traditional rhyme and meter in order to, in Pound's words, "compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome." His later work, for nearly fifty years, focused on the encyclopedic epic poem he entitled The Cantos.

Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, on October 30, 1885. He completed two years of college at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a degree from Hamilton College in 1905. After teaching at Wabash College for two years, he travelled abroad to Spain, Italy, and London, where, as the literary executor of the scholar Ernest Fenellosa, he became interested in Japanese and Chinese poetry. He married Dorothy Shakespear in 1914 and became London editor of the Little Review in 1917.

In 1924, he moved to Italy; during this period of voluntary exile, Pound became involved in Fascist politics, and did not return to the United States until 1945, when he was arrested on charges of treason for broadcasting Fascist propaganda by radio to the United States during World War II. In 1946, he was acquitted, but declared mentally ill and committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. During his confinement, the jury of the Bollingen-Library of Congress Award (which included a number of the most eminent writers of the time) decided to overlook Pound's political career in the interest of recognizing his poetic achievements, and awarded him the prize for the Pisan Cantos (1948). After continuous appeals from writers won his release from the hospital in 1958, Pound returned to Italy and settled in Venice, where he died, a semi-recluse, on November 1, 1972.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

A Draft of Cantos XXXI-XLI (1934)
A Draft of XXX Cantos (1930)
A Lume Spento (1908)
Cantos I-XVI (1925)
Cantos LII-LXXI (1940)
Cantos XVII-XXVII (1928)
Canzoni (1911)
Exultations (1909)
Homage to Sextus Propertius (1934)
Lustra and Other Poems (1917)
Patria Mia (1950)
Personae (1909)
Provenca (1910)
Quia Pauper Amavi (1919)
The Cantos (1972)
The Fifth Decade of Cantos (1937)
The Pisan Cantos (1948)
Umbra: Collected Poems (1920)

Prose

ABC of Economics (1933)
Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (1924)
Digest of the Analects (1937)
Gaudier Brzeska (1916)
Guide to Kulchur (1938)
How To Read (1931)
Imaginary Letters (1930)
Indiscretions (1923)
Instigations (1920)
Jefferson and/or Mussolini (1935)
Literary Essays (1954)
Make It New (1934)
Pavannes and Divisions (1918)
Polite Essays (1936)
Prolegomena: Volume I (1932)
Selected Prose: 1909-1965 (1973)
Social Credit and Impact (1935)
The ABC of Reading (1934)
The Spirit of Romance (1953)
What is Money For? (1939)

Anthology

Cathay (1915)
The Classic Anthology Defined (1954)
The Great Digest, and the Unwobbling Point (1951)
The Translations of Ezra Pound (1953)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Canto XIV

Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972
Io venni in luogo d'ogni luce muto;
The stench of wet coal, politicians
. . . . . . . . . . e and. . . . . n, their wrists bound to
    their ankles,
Standing bare bum,
Faces smeared on their rumps,
    wide eye on flat buttock,
Bush hanging for beard,
    Addressing crowds through their arse-holes,
Addressing the multitudes in the ooze,
    newts, water-slugs, water-maggots,
And with them. . . . . . . r,
    a scrupulously clean table-napkin
Tucked under his penis,
    and. . . . . . . . . . . m
Who disliked colioquial language,
stiff-starched, but soiled, collars
    circumscribing his legs,
The pimply and hairy skin
    pushing over the collar's edge,
Profiteers drinking blood sweetened with sh-t,
And behind them. . . . . . f and the financiers
    lashing them with steel wires.

And the betrayers of language
    . . . . . . n and the press gang
And those who had lied for hire;
the perverts, the perverters of language,
    the perverts, who have set money-lust
Before the pleasures of the senses;

howling, as of a hen-yard in a printing-house,
    the clatter of presses,
the blowing of dry dust and stray paper,
fretor, sweat, the stench of stale oranges,
dung, last cess-pool of the universe,
mysterium, acid of sulphur,
the pusillanimous, raging;
plunging jewels in mud,
    and howling to find them unstained;
sadic mothers driving their daughters to bed with decrepitude,
sows eating their litters,
and here the placard ΕΙΚΩΝ ΓΗΣ,
    and here: THE PERSONNEL CHANGES,

melting like dirty wax,
    decayed candles, the bums sinking lower,
faces submerged under hams,
And in the ooze under them,
reversed, foot-palm to foot-palm,
    hand-palm to hand-palm, the agents provocateurs
The murderers of Pearse and MacDonagh,
    Captain H. the chief torturer;
The petrified turd that was Verres,
    bigots, Calvin and St. Clement of Alexandria!
black-beetles, burrowing into the sh-t,
The soil a decrepitude, the ooze full of morsels,
lost contours, erosions.

    Above the hell-rot
the great arse-hole,
    broken with piles,
hanging stalactites,
    greasy as sky over Westminster,
the invisible, many English,
    the place lacking in interest,
last squalor, utter decrepitude,
the vice-crusaders, fahrting through silk,
    waving the Christian symbols,
. . . . . . . . frigging a tin penny whistle,
Flies carrying news, harpies dripping sh-t through the air.

The slough of unamiable liars,
    bog of stupidities,
malevolent stupidities, and stupidities,
the soil living pus, full of vermin,
dead maggots begetting live maggots,
    slum owners,
usurers squeezing crab-lice, pandars to authori
pets-de-loup, sitting on piles of stone books,
obscuring the texts with philology,
    hiding them under their persons,
the air without refuge of silence,
    the drift of lice, teething,
and above it the mouthing of orators,
    the arse-belching of preachers.
    And Invidia,
the corruptio, fretor, fungus,
liquid animals, melted ossifications,
slow rot, fretid combustion,
    chewed cigar-butts, without dignity, without tragedy
. . . . .m Episcopus, waving a condom full of black-beetles,
monopolists, obstructors of knowledge.
    obstructors of distribution.

"Canto XIV" by Ezra Pound, from The Cantos of Ezra Pound, copyright © 1934, 1937, 1940, 1948, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968 by Ezra Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

"Canto XIV" by Ezra Pound, from The Cantos of Ezra Pound, copyright © 1934, 1937, 1940, 1948, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968 by Ezra Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry.

by this poet

poem
An image of Lethe,
                          and the fields
Full of faint light 
                       but golden,
Gray cliffs,
              and beneath them
A sea
Harsher than granite,
          unstill, never ceasing;

High forms
                with the movement of gods,
Perilous aspect
poem
For three years, out of key with his time,
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain "the sublime"
In the old scene.  Wrong from the start--

No, hardly, but seeing he had been born
In a half-savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for
poem
See, they return; ah, see the tentative	
Movements, and the slow feet,	
The trouble in the pace and the uncertain	
Wavering!	
 
See, they return, one, and by one,	        
With fear, as half-awakened;	
As if the snow should hesitate	
And murmur in the wind,	
            and half turn back;	
These were the "Wing'