The influence of Ezra Pound

2022-10-08 @Literature

This year I’ve increasingly journeyed into Ezra Pound’s shorter poems. Initially finding most of the material either incomprehensible, unreadable, or plain detestable, I gradually came to love it. Or at least appreciate.

With enough readings, I simply convinced myself of the fact. Though actually, I convinced myself of it a-priori. If it sustained solid renown for over a hundred years, all the while deemed awful ugly upon a superficial perusal, it had to be great. Doctors should not look like doctors. N.N. Taleb.

It was that same sound rationale that propelled my way through Ulysses and all other unapproachable literature. And was I not misled …

There’s not an element of twist to this story structure. It’s a simple one: Act I, the ordinary world, Act II, the special world, the world of Ezra Pound poetry: no ordeals to tackle, no road leading back to the ordinary.

As usual, I take mild curiosity in the biographical insight, here uncovering your frequent controversies: fascist, socialist, anti-Semite (per the irony cast by the appellation), aggressively anti-US (though born in the US), obtusely unpleasant; corroborated by publications, radio broadcasts proclaiming the said policies and anti-policies.

But that’s all parenthetical. Wherever on the fine scale of fact vs fable, I rarely bear a dogmatic grudge, should the convictions not mutate beyond the communication media. To the contrary, I’d have to disown many an esteemed author.

Of greater interest is Pound’s influence on 20th-century English literature. I’ve drawn the following parallel: what Pound achieved for literature is a milder variant of what Miles Davis did for Jazz, repeatedly, later in the century. Crystal clear?

That is to say, he experimented profusely, wrote esoterically, sacrificed convention, violated aesthetic, broke boundaries, and, similar to Miles' tendency to produce Jazz that wasn’t construed Jazz, EP produced poetry that wasn’t poetry.

Like Miles, Pound, in the hat of an editor, recognized and perpetuated talent. Joyce, Eliot, Hemingway and that Imagist group, are among the few notable elements whose rise in the arena owes itself to Pound’s influence. But if not Pound, then Shmound. And if not Joyce, then Joyce2;. Parallel reality theory. Quantum.

Like Miles, Pound encouraged new directions. Unlike Miles, a superb arranger and player, I consider Pound better as an arranger. Of every nature of poetry he undertook, I could arguably find a superior poet, whereas Miles seemed to excel (or match) across the board. But that doesn’t matter. Pound’s poetry is ‘damn fine stuff’ anyway.

I’ve not met anyone who reads Ezra Pound for pleasure. I get the distinct impression of it being a thing for the academics. Then again, I rarely meet anyone who reads any poetry for pleasure. I don’t hang out with academics.

What you will not find among EP’s opus … Poems in the styles of the ancient French troubadours, adaptations of the old Anglo-Saxon, Greek, Latin, Chinese. Or poetry inspired by ancient forms. Satire, social commentary, social critique, self-critique. Imagism. Even the heavily compact Haiku-inspired few-liners. Songs, conversations in verse, epigraphs, epistles. Longer narratives.

And those epic Cantos to consume decades … some supposedly written while confined to an open-air cell in Pisa?

(Though I admit, cannot advance beyond the first Canto. The overwhelming allusion, the shifting voice, and the jostling through time, space and form render it unapproachable should I not vest all effort.)


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