Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Early Poems of Ezra Pound

As a school girl and early college student I would peruse the library shelves of poetry and bring home anything that caught my interest, totally without guidance. As a college freshman I discovered Ezra Pound's shorter poetry collection Personae from New Directions and some of those poems have been favorites ever since, particularly the Cathay poems. The Dover edition of Pound's early poems contain many of my favorites.

In these early poems Pound assumes a mask, an identity, of another personality that reveals both a unique character and universal truths. Voices include warriors bored with peace to gorgeous love poems.

The poems include settings in the Middle Ages, the Crusades, translations from Latin, Provencal, Italian, Chinese, and Spanish first published in Personae (1909), Exultations (1909), Ripostes (1913), Cathay (1915) and "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly" (1920).

The Cathay translations are both exotic, being from the early Chinese, and poignant explorations of shared human experience. The Song of the Bowmen of Shu, 4th c. B.C. by Kutsugen, is an outpouring of grief and homesickness by weary and hungry soldiers grubbing for fern-shoots. The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter, a translation from Rihaku, tells the heart-breaking loneliness of a teenage wife whose husband has been gone five months. And my favorite, the Exile's Letter, is a story of friendship and nostalgia that catches my heart with every reading.

"And if you ask how I regret that parting:
      It is like the flowers falling at Spring's end
      Confused, whirled in a tangle.
What is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking,
There is no end of things in the heart.

I call in the boy,
Have him sit on his knees here
      to seal this,
And send it a thousand miles, thinking." 
Exile's Letter

Latter I was challenged about liking Pound's poetry when he was a Fascist and locked up as insane. I knew nothing about the man at the time. I was a naive reader who read the poems as art suspended in atmosphere, standing on their own.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Early Poems of Ezra Pound
Dover Publications
Publication March 18, 2016
$2.50 paperback
ISBN: 9780486287454