ezra pound

“Literature is language charged with meaning.”

From ABC of Reading
by Ezra Pound
Chapter Four


‘Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.’

Dichten = condensare.

I begin with poetry because it is the most concentrated form of verbal expression. Basil Bunting, fumbling about with a German-Italian dictionary, found that this idea of poetry as concentration is as old almost as the German language. ‘Dichten’ is the German verb corresponding to the noun ‘Dichtung’ meaning poetry, and the lexicographer has rendered it by the Italian verb meaning ‘to condense’. READ MORE >

Excerpts / 34 Comments
February 24th, 2011 / 3:22 pm

I needed a new bookshelf. before breaking down and ordering one from ($49.99 for a wooden 5-shelf) I decided to try the thrift store next door to my apartment. They have a ton of bookshelves, apparently NONE of which are for sale. Probably this is because they’re covered in books which ARE for sale. I didn’t need any books. In fact, books are why I was having this whole shelf-problem in the first place. But then, there, sitting on top of a pile (and btw, if you’re just going to pile the books anyway, why not sell me the shelf? piles work even better on floors than on shelves) I spotted Confucius to Cummings: An Anthology of Poetry edited by Ezra Pound and Marcella Spann. Mine for one hot crumpled dollar bill. No tax. From the back cover: “It is a statement by example of the ‘Pound critical canon’ and, as such, a short course in the history of world poetry…” It will have pride of place on my new bookshelf, which Staples will be delivering sometime tomorrow, along with the pink plastic pencil case ($.50) I ordered to tip the total price over the $50 line and therefore earn free shipping.

Power Quote: Ezra Pound

“The man of understanding can no more sit quiet and resigned while his country lets its literature decay, and lets good writing meet with contempt, than a good doctor could sit quiet and contented while some ignorant child was infecting itself with tuberculosis under the impression that it was merely eating jam tarts.”

ABC of Reading

[PS- hat tip to my man, Michael Signorelli, who emailed me the quote just now. Do you have any idea how rad it is to have an editor who sends letters that begin: "Have you been reading Pound today? I started up on ABC of Reading again..." ? Well, allow me to give you an idea: it is very, very rad.]

Power Quote / 18 Comments
April 7th, 2009 / 2:19 pm

Power Quote: Special T.O.C. edition, for keith n.b., with double special bonus shout-out to Paul Violi

In a comment on yesterday’s “Power Quote” post, one of our regular commenters said he couldn’t find much about M.L. Rosenthal’s The Modern Poets: A Critical Introduction on the web. Well, neither could I, actually, which is one of the reasons that my post had links to some Yeats poems he had written about instead of to anything by Rosenthal himself. So by special request, please find below the T.O.C. to the book, plus some info on Rosenthal, for the edification and enjoyment of all. Before we get to that, however, I want to give a shout-out to Paul Violi. I was lucky enough to study with Paul when I was an MFA at The New School. Of all the poets–hell, all the people–I know, he’s easily one of the best- and widest-read, and is always  generous with his vast knowledge when I get a bug up my ass about this or that poetry-related topic and start suddenly shooting him emails. Most recently, that topic has been Ezra Pound. Paul pointed me to Rosenthal specifically for chapter three, “EZRA POUND: THE POET AS HERO.” After–or before–you check out the T.O.C. to this book, I emphatically recommend you click over to Paul’s website and check him out, if you don’t already know his work. 


Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 7 Comments
January 27th, 2009 / 5:51 pm

Ounce of Pound

Another point miscomprehended by people who are clumsy at language is that one does not need to learn a whole language in order to understand some one or some dozen poems. It is often enough to understand thoroughly the poem, and every one of the few dozen or few hundred words that compose it. 

- “How to Read”

Author Spotlight & Excerpts / 7 Comments
December 30th, 2008 / 4:51 pm

Ounce of Pound: Grad School Edition

In the main I don’t see that teaching can do much more than expose counterfeit work, thus gradually leading the student to the valid. The hoax, the sham, the falsification become so habitual that they pass unnoticed; all this is fit matter for education. The student can in this field profit by his instructor’s experience. The natural destructivity of the young can function to advantage: excitement of the chase, the fun of detection could under favorable circumstances enliven the study. 

Whereas it is only maturer patience that can sweep aside a writer’s honest error, and overlook unaccomplished clumsiness or outlandishness or old-fashionedness, for the sake of the solid centre. 

-ABC of Reading, p. 193



When was the last time you read “Visits to St. Elizabeth’s” by Elizabeth Bishop, about going to see Pound when he was institutionalized? Probably a long time, right? Let’s refresh our memories:

>>The nursery rhyme style gives an unusual effect to the strange or unsettling descriptions of a psychiatric hospital in the poem. Likewise the poem treats Pound ambivalently describing him by turns as “honored”, “brave”, “cruel”, and “wretched” among other things.<<

And has the actual poem here. Try reading it out loud. 

Author Spotlight / 85 Comments
December 11th, 2008 / 11:32 am

Education for Indie Heathens

On this site, in a recent post which garnered 200+ comments, someone quoted Ezra Pound; the source, Pound’s instructional text A B C of Reading.

Lego my Ezra

Lego my Ezra

In the book’s introduction Pound writes, “For those who might like to learn. The book is not addressed to those who have arrived at full knowledge of the subject without knowing the facts.” He goes on to describe A B C as a text-book ” ‘for pleasure as well as profit’ by those no longer in school; by those who have not been to school; or by those who in their college days suffered those things which most of my own generation suffered.”

Obviously Pound had HTML’s audience in mind.

After the jump is a passage that hasn’t aged a day since its 1934 publication.


Random / 70 Comments
November 30th, 2008 / 7:31 pm