6 responses

  1. My latest:

    A plague
    Runs riot, a world runs riot, an old man
    Walks

    I was checking out Ezra Pound’s “A Few Don’ts” for poets. It’s hard to believe this paladin of modernism who opened the Pandora’s Box to free verse also did the most to get Robert Frost on his feet. Yet for all Pound’s putative genius I find his poetry incredibly arid. Nevertheless, I’d be interested to know if there are any “Don’ts” with which you concur. He can seem a little dogmatic about them—a problem of negative style. Maybe he should have added, “Enjoy my advice and forget me.”

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    • I am fond of some of Pound’s poetry, namely The Seafarer, Canto I, and The River Merchant’s wife. Check it out:

      The River-Merchant’s Wife: a Letter

      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 look out?

      At sixteen you departed,
      You went into far Ku-to-Yen, 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-fu-Sa.

      By Rihaku.

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    • This is one of Pound’s most anthologized poems. According to what I’ve read, “The River Merchant’s Wife”, which is loosely a translation, is actually two separate poems that Pound has turned into one.

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    • Robert Frost somewhat disputed just how much he owed to Pound, but that could have been his ego talking. Pound repeatedly invited Frost to one of his poetry groups and an exasperated Frost finally responded: “I don’t write poetry by committee.” A little dig at Poond’s politics no doubt. Frost had a strong aversion to the “collectivism”, as he called it, of the intellectual Left in the early 20th century.

      Believe it or not, I’ve never read Pound’s “A few Dont’s”. I can’t find anything to disagree with. I’ve written almost exactly the same precepts write down to the avoidance of abstraction in poetry (in my Brief Art of Haiku). I think I’m much less florid than Pound though. :)

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  2. Thanks. Yes, the “River Merchant’s Wife” I could get along with. As for the others I’ve read them and read them again today—and continually find myself working for him (often sisypheanly) more than he’s working for me. As such his poems resist my memory. I’m not blaming him for that, because I can see how Pound’s poetry would appeal to the scholars, the multilingual, and mensas among us. Maybe his protean voice is my holdup. By contrast, Yeats and Stevens are instantly comprehensible to me.

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    • I find Pound’s Canto’s insufferably dull and self-absorbed. I guess I see it in the same vein as Wordsworth’s Prelude, one of the greatest works of mediocrity ever written. Later 20th century poets, like Pound, simply dispensed with narrative and instead wrote pages and pages of footnotes that were somehow utterly compelling and fascinating to them.

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