Saturday, March 1, 2008

Poem of the Day: Ezra Pound

You think it's easy being a poet? Well, it's not all Parisian garrets, fountain pens and rejection letters that poets suffer. Some poets actually go to jail. Poetry is a hard life, sometimes. Look at Ezra Pound, for instance.

Ezra Pound (1885-19720) was an expatriate poet, intellectual rabble-rouser, and one of the primary figures in the Modernist movement in poetry. He was a friend of T. S.Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and William Carlos Williams. He promoted their work along with the work of writers Robert Frost, James Joyce, and Marianne Moore. Pound met the poet William Butler Yeats in London, and acted as his secretary for a time.

In 1915, Pound published Cathay, an ostensible translation of several Chinese poems into free verse. Critics notes the more literal interpretation of the works by Pound's use of conversational diction. Pound's accuracy in the translations are often questioned, and the poems are seen more as a combination of meditations on violence and friendship with an effort to "rethink the nature of an English poem." (The Pound Era. New York: New Directions, 1971. 199).

Pound protested the U. S. involvement in WWII. In 1942, as an expatriate living in Italy, he began making radio broadcasts criticizing America's role in the war; some of his messages were heavily anti-Semitic. He was charged with treason against the U.S. and arrested in Italy. While he was interred in Pisa, Italy, he suffered a nervous breakdown. Pound began writing the Pisan Cantos while in an internment camp, which are seen as a reflection on his ruin, and the ruin of Europe after the war. In 1945, he was tried on the treason charges and found not guilty by mental defect.

Pound was then committed to St Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C. from 1946- 1958. upon his release, he returned to Italy, where he remained until his death in 1972.

Of America, Pound said "America is a lunatic asylum".

This is from Pound's Cathay

The River-Merchant's Wife

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 married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

No comments: