Thursday 30 October 2008

The Pound Problem

I just walked past a Blue Plaque to Ezra Pound (off Kensington Church Walk), and it's his birthday today - Happy 123rd, Ez - (and, as it happens, his deathday on Saturday). So it seems only fitting to say a word. But what word? Am I alone in finding it very difficult to get any kind of a grip on Pound, to decide whether he is a great writer or merely a great figure? Like Byron (another one I can't get a grip on, come to think), Pound 'was much in the habit of fancying that all the world was spinning on his pivot'. For some time he was right, at least inasmuch as modernism as we know it would have had a different birth without him - and poetry at least owes 'il miglior fabbro' a huge debt for his work on The Waste Land. And yet, when it comes to reading Pound, the experience is patchy in the extreme. Leaving aside the problems of his rebarbative persona (the adjective could almost have been made for him), for myself I find the Cantos largely impenetrable - are they really worth the trouble? - and even the shorter verse of his imagist years often seems faded and artificial. This, however, is beautiful, I think...
Any views?


  1. I once had a teacher (oh yes I did, bloody hecklers) who thought that disagreeing with your own opinions produced well balanced individuals, he was probably right but what do y0u do when the argument turns to violence, a not uncommon occurrence in selena's London.

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  2. Ah yes cloud computing - I made a note to find out what that was. But having done so I am none the wiser...

  3. i'd agree. Pound can be exquisite but it's as if he didn't have any sure sense of how to write great poetry, or perhaps he just didn't realise that 95% of his poetry is tripe. The Cantos are...not poetry, or not good poetry, anyway.

  4. Pound leaves me cold, though my opinion isn't helped by the fact that he was an anti-semitic loon and a pal of Mussolini.

  5. But without Ezra, no "Wasteland." I have seen the ms. Eliot sent him marked with Pound's edits, emendations. He made ink slashes through huge chunks of it and just wrote "BAD" beside some stanzas. E.P.'s editorial hand really, really shaped what may be Modernism's greatest poem, certainly one of her greatest poets.

    But he himself was hit and miss, 'tis true. Some cantos good, some lousy. And I do believe he got loony and that was the source of his anti-Semiticism and fascism.

    I live one block away from the home he lived in as a teenager, but there's no historic plaque on it. Mine is a very Jewish neighborhood and the powers that be refused to honor his home. Can't say as I blame them, though for history lovers it's a bit of a drag. I show everyone I can.

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