Ezra Pound – Bess

I’ve decided that the first writer I research to be Ezra Pound, who was referenced in my introduction post. I have always admired his work, for he is known to be the creator of an important movement in writing, Imagism, but I have never had the chance to dive deeper into his history and writing style in relation to his contributions.

Ezra Pound in the 1920s is a photograph by Everett which was uploaded on December 5th, 2011.

Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho in 1885. He did not live there long, as his family moved to Philadelphia when his father got a job with the US Mint. Compared to others, Pound seemed to have a pretty happy childhood life. He went to both military and public high school, and he told his parents he wanted to be a poet when he was 15 years old. His parents were skeptical but still supported his dreams. He enrolled at UPenn, but transferred after 2 years to Hamilton College, receiving a bachelors degree in Philosophy. He began his early career with a teaching job at Indiana’s Wabash College in 1908 but soon left as his career expectations did not match the tone of the job there.

Those following years was around the time Pound’s career began to take off. With just 80$ in his hand, Pound moved to Venice, Italy. There with his own money, he published his first book of poems, “A Lume Spento”. Although the book was not a success, Pound made influential relationships with successful writers that would later help him in his own career.

He published three books during this time: “Personae”, “Exultations”, and “The Spirit of Romance”. Some were based on lectures he’d given in London. Alongside those books were also successful critiques and reviews; he would later be referred to by T.S Elliot as “the most influential and in some ways the best critic in England or America.”


“Go in fear of abstractions.”- Ezra Pound

During this time, Pound helped shape a movement within poetry (and art as well). His focus was on Imagism–emphasizing simplicity, clarity, and specifications. This movement derived much from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, steering away from Victorian and Romantic poetry. It is apparent in his writing how Pound utilizes detail and images to bring Imagism to life. An example by him would be the poem “The Encounter”.

The blue text represents what I believe to be examples of imagism in his work.

Here you can see the image Pound was trying to convey– a simple encounter free from abstractions, and images tied to the senses to allow to the reader to experience the poem, similar to a story. This movement was one of the first to give rise to modern poetry. This movement of imagism also promoted itself through art, like in Cubism. Another strong example of imagism through Pound’s work is with his poem “Taking Leave of a Friend”.

The blue text represents what I believe to be examples of imagism in his work.

This movement of Imagism did not belong to Pound for long, as other writers began to take control. Frustrated, Pound left the movement and let it continue on its own. The years after this movement, his work continued to flourish, publishing works like “Homage to Sextus Propertius” (1919) and “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” (1921). These works are well known as pieces that address the horrors within art and society during World War I.

After moving around for a few years, Pound settled in a small town of Rapallo, Italy. There his life changed significantly, starting with his daughter and son being born in 1925 and 1926.

Pound pictured with Mary–daughter of Pound and Olga Rudge, American Violinist.

During this time, Pound devoted himself to his work “The Cantos”–which was a long-form-poem that was a “poem including history”. This is where his readers found out his immense interest and dedication to economics, politics, and how they were changed after WWI. There are many volumes of “The Cantos”, the first published in 1925, then 1934, 1937 and 1940 respectively. Here is a small snippet of what it looked like:

Canto I in the first Cantos. Typically longer and in free verse, with hints of imagism.

His works were not the only influential aspects of his life. As time progressed after WWI, Pound began to support the Italian dictator, Mussolini. Pound went back to the US in 1939 in hopes to stop a war between his home country and adopted one. Unfortunately, after fascist propaganda spread by Pound became apparent, he was arrested in 1945 and handed to US partisans. He lived in a detention center in Pisa for half a year and was then flown back to the US to be tried for treason. The court considered him insane and detained him to a mental hospital in Washington DC until 1958.

Pound’s mugshot in 1945

This setback, however, did not stop his writing. While Pound was in the detention center he finished “Pisan Cantos”, an extremely well-known volume of his poems. He also continued to write in the mental hospital and was released back to Italy to publish more of his work. He was awarded a literary prize for his pieces while he was detained as well.

After 70 published writings and 1500 articles, Pound passed away in 1972 in Venice, Italy. Pound lived an extremely influential, productive, and somewhat successful life.

After studying multiple pieces and collections of Ezra Pound’s writing, I will end this post with a poem written by me, with the style and ideas of Pound in mind. (This exercise will follow every one of my blog posts about historical writers with specific stylings)  It is called “Eager”.

This poem was mostly similar to his stylings in “The Encounter” and “Taking Leave of a Friend”. The short lines and small imagery with specifics reflect the importance of imagism. This contrasts with his Cantos, long poetry with fewer specifics and more relating to current issues of his time. “Eager” is obviously not publish-ready, but it does include most of Pound’s older ideas and grammar style.

In conclusion, with Ezra Pound, we learned that his life was full of ups and downs, successes and fails, and above all influential. He created a movement that brought poetry of its time forward with Chinese and Japanese elements of poetry, along with his controversial political beliefs and actions. His poetry, in my opinion, is beautiful and can be interpreted in many ways through his extensive use of specifics and images.

Bibliography:

Biography.come Editors. “Ezra Pound.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 25 Feb. 2016, http://www.biography.com/people/ezra-pound-9445428.

Vail-Ballou Press, compiler. Selected Poems of Ezra Pound. New York, James
     Laughlin.

4 thoughts on “Ezra Pound – Bess

  1. sabrina.schoenborn

    Great post! I love how you have included graphic images of some of his excerpts! He is such a fascinating author and I loved how you went into his history with Mousilini. Excited to see who you are researching next!

    Reply
  2. baitingz

    Hi Bess, your post really attracts me, even though I am more of a math/science student. I like how you provide an introduction on Ezra, your poet, and talks about some of his works. I just have one suggestion for you. Maybe it will take some efforts, but I am really interested in knowing how has the poet’s earlier life experience influence his later works. For instance, you said that Ezra’s parents were somehow skeptical toward his career as a poet, did this element show up in his later poems? Or how do you think his major in philosophy changed his style of writing? Overall, I think you did a great job in both introduction and analysis (since I am not so good at reading poems, so I wouldn’t comment too much on your analysis) and I just want you to know I love how you depicts the eager with the old glass door and the December cold in your own poem!!

    Reply
  3. ninayichenwei

    I really enjoyed reading this post! You did a great job summarizing the life experience of Ezra Pound while introducing your own interpretations of specific poems with smooth transitions. One advice would be to maybe share how has learning about his history changed the way you view his works. I’m looking forward to reading your next post!

    Reply
  4. Chelsea Elizabeth Kerwin

    Nice job condensing a lot of research about a complex man! This is a great article you might find interesting, it goes into some detail about Pound’s philosophy, career, and the imagist movement- which, just as you say, took a lot of its momentum from the haiku form: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/09/the-pound-error

    One note: While you are absolutely right about Pound’s fascism, it is important to note that he was also quite the anti-Semite. Comparing Pound’s fascism to Hughes’s communism could be problematic as a result, since for Pound fascism and anti-semitism were so linked. Like with so many canonized poets, this is something that every reader and student of Pound’s needs to grapple with, especially because his feelings on the subject were loudly and violently expressed and did enter into his poetry. There are no easy answers here, of course: https://www.thenation.com/article/coming-to-terms-with-ezra-pounds-politics/

    Reply

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