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