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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

 

Sestina: Altaforte

Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972
Loquitur: En Bertrans de Born.
  Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a 
  stirrer-up of strife.
  Eccovi!
  Judge ye!
  Have I dug him up again?
The scene in at his castle, Altaforte.  "Papiols" is his jongleur.
"The Leopard," the device of Richard (Cúur de Lion).

I

Damn it all!  all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come!  Let's to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah!  when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howl I my heart nigh mad with rejoicing.

II

In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When the tempests kill the earth's foul peace,
And the lightnings from black heav'n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven skies God's swords clash.

III

Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour's stour than a year's peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah!  there's no wine like the blood's crimson!

IV

And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears through the dark clash
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might 'gainst all darkness opposing.

V

The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But is fit only to rot in womanish peace
Far from where worth's won and the swords clash
For the death of such sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.

VI

Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There's no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle's rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges 'gainst "The Leopard's" rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "Peace!"

VII

And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought "Peace!"

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
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
And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also 
Heavy with weeping, so winds from sternward
Bore us out onward with bellying canvas,
Circe's this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
Then sat we
poem

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