Friday, October 16, 2009

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound has issues. He was an ardent fascist who never renounced his politics. He was committed to an insane asylum right after the Second World War, and it would be nice to believe that his political nastiness was just another manifestation of mental illness and not evidence of a cruel and bullying character. Since viciousness and craziness are not mutually exclusive, however, I’m not prepared to absolve him.

I don’t tend to like or dislike poets or poetry on political grounds, but Pound is still not one of my particulars. I wish I had the fortitude to wade through the Cantos, his extended riff on the Odyssey and most ambitious work, but I didn’t get to them in grad school, and now that I have to balance work and life commitments, I don’t tackle reading projects with which I know I will fail to persist. My lack of fortitude in seeing such projects to the end only depresses me. He has a few widely anthologized pieces, in particular the 2-line “wet black bough” poem, but the body of his work does not seem to be widely read by non-poets.

I first read this poem in an anthology of children’s verse that I bought at a half-price bookstore a few years ago. It is simple and lovely and not wound up in the tangles of allusions and snippets of non-English languages that can make his work so daunting. I find the poem’s deep empathy toward girlhood to be startling and lovely.

A Girl

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast --
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child -- so high -- you are,
And all this is folly to the world.

Photo taken by my husband last fall, Ezra Pound's grave in the San Michel Cemetery outside of Venice.

Ezra Pound on Wikipedia

Ezra Pound on

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