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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

 

Hugh Selwyn Mauberly [excerpt]

Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972
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 factitious bait;

[idmen gar toi pant, hos eni Troiei]
Caught in the unstopped ear;
Giving the rocks small lee-way
The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

His true Penelope was Flaubert,
He fished by obstinate isles;
Observed the elegance of Circe's hair
Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

Unaffected by "the march of events,"
He passed from men's memory in l'an trentuniesme
De son eage; the case presents
No adjunct to the Muses' diadem.

 
II

The age demanded an image
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
Of the inward gaze;
Better mendacities
Than the classics in paraphrase!

The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
Made with no loss of time,
A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.

 
IV

These fought in any case,
and some believing,
		pro domo, in any case . . .

Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later . . .
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some, pro patria,
		non "dulce" non "et decor" . . .
walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.

 
V

There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.

Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

Copyright © 1956, 1957 by Ezra Pound. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

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

O my songs,
Why do you look so eagerly and so curiously into people's faces,
Will you find your lost dead among them?

poem
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
poem

Spring . . . . . . .
Too long . . . . . .
Gongula . . . . . .