One of the greatest wordsmiths ever Reading Pound, one feels the weight of civic responsibility Pound rages at what he sees rending Western Civilization from its roots He discloses history by mentioning it, using events as metaphors, as expressions, as examples of his points, and in doing this he expects you to know them Pound s poetry convicts one to read Dante, to read Homer, to read the Troubadours The Cantos really has no plot The poem consists of approximately 120 shorter poems themselves called cantos, after the sections into which Dante divided each book of his Divine Comedy , some of which tell unified stories and some of which are simply collections of musings, observations, memories, and exhortations To some extent in my opinion to really be able to understand the Cantos you have to strive to become Pound This is not something the academics are willing to do, and many of them in my opinion miss the whole point To become Pound means allowing yourself to become accept a certain sort of craziness Putting aside questions of identifiable mental illness, there is a way in which Pound, in the Cantos, is often just not in touch with rationality as we ordinarily understand it This is the craziness of someone who sees something that other people don t see which is not in itself crazy and who expects that other people will also see it if he just shows it to them Like I said one of the greatest wordsmiths Ever. It is difficult to estimate the totality of effect of Pound s having been We can say this much Without Pound there is no Williams, no Olson, no Zukofsky to name only the most obvious suspects But we might as well say that without Pound there is no Joyce, no Eliot Lewis is, natheless, as the tree, having never been nor yet is he to be seen as much, if seen Gaudier Forget it Antheil Well, yes, but to what extent Thus, and as simply, may we owe the finer and distinct shapes of poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, and music each, when working, interpenetrating its neighbor to Pound s having been and operatively, done Kenner s Pound Era is a good start toward understanding the abovementioned effect Davenport s Ithaka a signpost with headway The rest is in the music.I suppose I have read some 20 books by or about Pound At that, I am just closer to understanding what he was up to. Though Pound s Cantos are going onto the to poke at with a stick shelf, I have actually read a number of the poems over the past few months, and some of them are staggeringly stunningly wind and sea and stone coast wrought Hellenic dreambeauties These from the first 15th or so of the book that I have breached Then some are incomprehensible limbos Gass s essay on Pound in Finding A Form , where he spends the first two pages deconstructing the Fate hidden in his name and the rest chalking up his failures and successes by degrees, is well worth a good reader s time The Cantos linger on my shelf it s a gorgeous stark New Directions sometimes I find them open in my palms and I don t know how they got there often they achieve that place that rare poetry does, where you feel like it s actually the voices of Time, Mind, and Earth at other instances you feel that you re having the golden fleece pulled over your eyes still, I am intrigued fascism and mental instability are intriguing, among many other things when poetry is added into the mix, we re just all ambiguously rattling the chains of HISTORY and the voice through which it sometimes speaks clatters clatters. Yet what need to say Tis as human a little story as paper could well carry, in affect, as singsing so Salaman susuing to swittvitles while as unbluffingly blurtubruskblunt as an Esra the cat, the cat s meeter, the meeter s cat s wife, the meeter s cat s wife s half better, the meeter s cat s wife s half better s meeter, and so back to our horses, for we also know, what we have perused from the pages of I Was A Gemral, that Showting up of Bulsklivism by Schottenboum , that Father Michael about this red time of the white terror equals the old regime and Margaret is the social revolution while cakes mean the party funds and dear thank you signifies national gratitude In fine, we have heard, as it happened, of Spartacus intercellular We are not corknered yet, dead hand We can recall, with voluntears, the froggy jew, and sweeter far twere now westhinks in Dumbil s fair city ere oneyear is o er We tourned our coasts to the good gay tunes When from down swords the sea merged the oldowth guns and answer made the bold O Dwyer But Est modest in verbos Let a prostitute be whoso stands before a door and winks or parks herself in the fornix near a makeussin wall sinsin sinsin and the curate one who brings strong waters gingin gingin , but also, and dinna forget, that there is many asleeps between someathome s first and inausland s last and that the beautiful presence of waiting kates will until life s bethan enough to make any milkmike in the language of sweet tarts punch hell s hate into his twin nicky and that Maggy s tea, or your majesty, if heard as a boost from a born gentleman is For if the lingo gasped between kicksheets, however basically English, were to be preached from the mouths of wickerchurchwardens and metaphysicians in the row and advokaatoes, allvoyous, demivoyelles, languoaths, lesbiels, dentelles, gutterhowls and furtz, where would their practice be or where the human race itself were the Pythagorean sesquipedalia of the panepistemion, however apically Volapucky, grunted and gromwelled, ichabod, habakuk, opanoff, uggamyg, hapaxle, gomenon, ppppfff, over country stiles, behind slated dwellinghouses, down blind lanes, or, when all fruit fails, under some sacking left on a coarse cart So hath been, love tis tis and will be till wears and tears and ages Thief us the night, steal we the air, shawl thiner liefest, mine Here, Ohere, insult the fair Traitor, bad hearer, brave The lightning look, the birding cry, awe from the grave, ever flowing on the times Feueragusaria iordenwater now godsun shine on menday s daughter a good clap, a fore marriage, a bad wake, tell hell s well such is manowife s lot of lose and win again, like he s gruen quhiskers on who s chin again, she plucketed them out but they grown in again So what are you going to do about it O dearJOYce Funnigans Wake Book Won and not just because of Ezra Esra Arse Erase Usury but because passages such as this contain everything lacking in the Cannots they are just so darn Po faced So self aggrandising So, well, unpleasant, much of the time Diving into the Wake was pleasure, the Cantos often felt like Work Tracing through all the allusions and quotations often ended up resulting in a simple hmm, so what This is not to say there is not some extraordinary writing here about 15 or so of the Cantos, as well as bits and bobs scattered around, surely rank with some of the greatest poetry of the 20thc BUT.When reading secondary material isenjoyable than reading the text itself, you know there is a problemI am ready to admit the problem may be me rather than the work, but i m not sure I care at this point Pound for me will always be, in descending order a genius promoter a great editor an excellent and inventive translator and a poet of wildly variable quality You want to reject Pound, as you want to reject Celine, for his politics, and for his role in the tragedy of the 20th century But his is voice that gets inside you head and won t got way, and his incantations make your liver quiver And you realize that there really is no Eliot or Hemingway or Williams or Ginsberg without him No Beats No Funk And besides, the greatest tragedy he presided over was his own Winter is icumin in, lude sing goddam . And If you say that this tale teachesa lesson, or that the Reverend Eliothas found anatural languageyou who thinkyou willget through hell in a hurry opening lines of Canto XLVI You will not find a better summary of all that modernist poetry had to offer than Ezra Pound s decades long collection of poetry, written with The Divine Comedy in mind, that he simply called The Cantos It is one of the most voluminous, complex, ambitious, and extreme works of literature ever released If you ever need to read one of Ezra Pound s writings to understand what he was about and how his understanding of life played out through his career life these cantos are all you need Knowledge the shade of a shade,Yet must thou sail after knowledgeKnowing less than drugged beasts. from Canto XLVII Ezra Pound was a main stay in modernist American European literature for decades He would become extremely controversial for his anti semitic, pro Mussolini views and would spend his long post WWII life in seclusion in Italy after being released from US custody for assisting Mussolini during the war he was diagnosed as having advanced bi polar disorder Despite this, he is given credit as having helped and counseled numerous writers over the course of his life And such authors like Eliot, Joyce, Hughes Langston , Woolf, H.D., Carlos Williams and Ginsberg, to name a few, would correspond with him over his life to debate, get support, and advice from him Never idle, by no means by no wiles intermittentMoth is called over mountainThe bull runs blind on the sword, naturans To the cave art thou called, Odysseus,By Mol hast thou respite for a little,By Mol art thou freed from the one bedthat thou may st return to anotherThe stars are not in her counting,To her they are but wandering holes. from Canto XLVIITry as I might, I find it nearly impossible to give a simple summary of The Cantos itself These cantos are filled with Chinese and Japanese characters and make references to the Noh plays of Japan as well as a section of cantos on Chinese history It is a book or collection that grapples with world history through culture, economics, and general governance So many figures are referenced or made focal points of full sections such as John Adams, Confucius, Pietro Leopoldo, Edward Coke, and the poetry of Homer and T.S Eliot are among many that show up His blending of history and economics as to be singled out for distinction Only the antisemitism that appears during The Pisan Cantos onwards and praise of Italian fascism prevent this work from being perfect You could argue that his worsening untreated bi polar disorder was not helping but stillnot cool.I would be remiss not to comment on one of the few central themes flowing throughout The Cantos, his hatred of usury As defined in the edition of The Cantos that I have in front of me, usury is a charge for the use of purchasing power without regard to production often without the regard to the possibilities of production This hatred of usury leads to one of the most famous canto from this collection and which Pound felt essential to understanding these poems Canto XLV With UsuraWith usura hath no man a house of good stoneeach block cut smooth and well fittingthat design might cover their face,with usurahath no man a painted paradise on his church wallharpes et luzor where virgin receiveth messageand halo projects from incision,with usuraseeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubinesno picture is made to endure nor to live withbut it is made to sell and sell quicklywith usura, sin against nature,is thy bread everof stale ragsis thy bread dry as paper,with no mountain wheat, no strong flourwith usura the line grows thickwith usura is no clear demarcationand no man can find site for his dwelling.Stonecutter is kept from his toneweaver is kept from his loomWITH USURAwool comes not to marketsheep bringeth no gain with usuraUsura is a murrain, usurablunteth the needle in the maid s handand stoppeth the spinner s cunning Pietro Lombardocame not by usuraDuccio came not by usuranor Pier della Francesca Zuan Bellin not by usuranor was La Calunnia painted.Came not by usura Angelico came not Ambrogio Praedis,Came no church of cut stone signed Adamo me fecit.Not by usura St TrophimeNot by usura Saint Hilaire,Usura rusteth the chiselIt rusteth the craft and the craftsmanIt gnaweth the thread in the loomNone learneth to weave gold in her pattern Azure hath a canker by usura cramoisi is unbroideredEmerald findeth no MemlingUsura slayeth the child in the wombIt stayeth the young man s courtingIt hath brought palsey to bed, lyethbetween the young bride and her bridegroom CONTRA NATURAMThey have brought whores for EleusisCorpses are set to banquetat behest of usura This is not a book to be read by a novice or someone unfamiliar to modernist literature as it is waycomplex than what you will get from T.S Eliot I will say that if you like an adventure and like to be challenged intellectually, as I do, this book will give keep you busy and make you think, whether you agree with Pound or not I find myself doing both at certain points. Del Schwartz Said About The Cantos, They Are One Of The Touchstones Of Modern Poetry William Carlos Williams Said, Pound Discloses History By Its Odor, By The Feel Of It In The Words Fuses It With The Words, Present And Past, To MAKE His Cantos Make Them Since TheRevised Edition, The Italian Cantos LXXII And LXXIII As Well As AFragment Concluding The Work Have Been Added Now Appearing For The First Time Is Pound S Recently Found English Translation Of Italian Canto LXXII Miles Jochem Editorial Intern, Tin House Books You know you re in for a doozy when the most famous literary appraisal of a book ends with the warning, There are the Alps, fools Sit down and wait for them to crumble These lines, written by Basil Bunting, are about Ezra Pound s Cantos, one of the pillars of Modernism Pound ranks among the most controversial of writers, not least due to his open sympathy for anti Semitic fascists In fact, the US government charged him with treason in 1945 and he spent years in captivity, first in an outdoor cage in Italy, then in an insane asylum in the States But if we judged writers by their personal failings there wouldn t be much left of the literary canon The book itself is a behemoth 120 odd sections comprising a modern epic in the tradition of Dante, but borrowing material from countless sources spanning global recorded history You need help with this, unless you are a polyglot with an encyclopedic knowledge of economic, political, and literary history not me For example, the first canto is Pound s translation of a 16th century Latin translation of part of Homer s Odyssey, written in Pound s take on ancient Anglo Saxon poetic meter Confused yet I still am, but William Cookson s excellent guide to the poem is helping me limp, slowly, through the dark forest of Modernist pretention I m still in the beginning cantos, but with any luck I will catch a glimpse of what the poet himself described as the marrow of wisdom contained within the words. Difficult, difficult read It is also a work of genius Demented genius at that Imagine Pound living in an steel cage, writing under the glare of floodlights and open hostility Certainly not a nice man, but also not an animal There is no Emily Dickinson to be found here Ugh, if I could provide a rating of negative stars, this would be the one Perhaps I ll finish it one day In my death bed senility I ll turn the last page and hauntingly tell that terrible grandchild, the one that s always torturing the cat or something, Promise me one day you ll read this, it s a classic I call this move the Reverse Rosebud I m spiteful like that I ve just committed to too many pages at this point I m no great critic of poetry I try not to overanalyze what I read that calls itself poetry A lot of the nuance of meter and structure and word choice, etc goes past me I m sure, so take this review with grain of salt But the elements that do please me, such as the sounds of the words, the interesting images, clever turns of phrase, a curious point of view, maybe even just the pattern of the ink on the pagenot here I hardly found any of that in these murky waters.With its collage of confusing references to usury, Jews, the Medicis and the Italian banking system, the American Founding Fathers, the I Ching, poorly transcribed Chinese characters, the name dropping from The Western Canon, lines borrowed from the Greek and Latin and French and Italian and Spanish and the cutting and pasting of centuries old financial correspondence , yadda, yadda, enough already I just find this kind of literary obscurantism masturbatory And I start to wonder if the hostility that I feel here is stemming from my own bewilderment boredom or from the ghost of Ezra Pound himself, towards the world around him, expressed as a paranoiac fever dream where all the subjects he half studied in his life come together in a meaningless, drooling riddle In other words if a canto is a song, then this album sucks.