Ezra Pound's poetry was a seminal influence on my own love and understanding of poetry as a young woman - I came to him, as the 'miglior fabbro', via TS Eliot; later, when I found out about his anti-Semitism and his advocacy of Italian Fascism, I couldn't bear to read his work for several years. Now - without in the least forgiving or forgetting those politics - it must be possible to let him have his rightful place in the birth and growth of modernist literature. This Selected is a very welcome addition to my own small library, which has the full volume of Cantos, some early poems and a couple of books of essays. The Editor's introductory note is well-judged, insightful and informative; the concise chronology is very helpful; the extensive notes on individual poems are indispensable; and the appendix of short essays by TS Eliot and John Berryman an unexpected bonus. In terms of the poems selected for inclusion, I am particularly pleased to have Pound's translations of Sophokles, Catullus and Horace, to set alongside the 'versions' and homages with which we may be more familiar, of Propertius, of the Provencal and the Chinese. Inevitably in a Selected, what one is given is a series of tasters rather than the full banquet; but what comes through is the richness, roundness and surprise of the poetic, as it developed from exuberant experiment to mature melodic ellipsis. I think this book reveals just how much poets writing now owe, whether they know it or not, to Pound.
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I really don’t like Ezra Pound as a person, but I can’t help but admire him as a poet. He’s one of those rare writers who seems to be blessed with an unnatural skill with the written word, but that doesn’t mean he was any less of a bellend.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about the poetry! This is basically the best introduction to Pound’s work that you could get, because it spans his entire career and just gives you the highlights. I wouldn’t recommend reading all of his Cantos, for example, because they can get boring quickly. But dipping into just a few of them? It’s definitely worth doing if you’re a serious reader of poetry.
Pound will never be one of the great poets that I look up to, but he is an important figure and an influence on the people who’ve influenced me, so it’s the sort of thing that I feel is required reading. You should read it yourself, if you’re a fan of beat poetry.