Better Than Ezra!


All-man-ack! Never has any individual better deserved the moniker “Library of America.” Herein, several fine phrases offered to or about Mr. Pound offer a discreet guide to this new doorstop canon.

“Literature,” Pound famoused, “is news that stays news,” as in “In a Station of the Metro,” “Fever Chart,” and his translation of Provençal troubadour Arnaut Daniel, “En Cest Sonet Coind’ e Leri.”

But then there was also “Make it new!,” about which much in this one-man Modernism, partic. “Ancient Music,” the redoubtable “H.S. Mauberley,” and “Salutation the Third.”

Sure, a fascist, averred the poet Bill Knott once, but “at least he made the quatrains run on time,” eloquently in “La Fraisne,” “Ballad of Wine Skins,” Cavalcanti’s “Sonnet XXV,” “Mauberley” again.

Cummings, with the ambivalence Pound inspired in the worst and best, called him “Humane, but not human”: See “Revolt,” “Reflection.”

Gertrude Stein, equally ambiguous inventor of the century, wrote Pound off as a “village explainer; excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.” See his profligate Oriental archiving and translations, e.g., The Great Digest and The Confucian Analects.

“Poetry should be at least as well written as prose”; Pound kept to this promise over years and countries, in and out of traditions and hospitals; one need only consider “Canzoni” V-VIII or “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter.”

Pound’s verdict on Tropic of Cancer: “A dirty book worth reading.” Compare The Pisan Cantos, newly reissued by New Directions (192 pp., $13.95).

Lastly per Pound: “Artists are the antennae of the race.” One might look in “Cantico del Sole,” but even better at the opening of “Commission”:

Go, my songs, to the lonely and the unsatisfied,

Go also to the nerve-racked, go to the enslaved-by-convention,

Bear to them my contempt for their oppressors.