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About the Author
Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1888. He moved to England in 1914 and published his first book of poems in 1917. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Eliot died in 1965.
Top Customer Reviews
In any case if the politico-poetic schism doesn't bother you, this slim collection is a wonderful introduction to this important Modernist. His Cantos were overreaching and sprawling -- some of the poems here have the glint of lyric perfection. I am especially fond of the Cathay poems, and of those Exile's Letter is my favorite. His translation is crystalline, the words flow like water, of all his poems, translations or otherwise, I feel this is among the most perfect -- not for greatness of idea or emotion, but for its subtlety and lyricism.
He reaches such moments in parts of the Pisan Cantos ("What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross"), but it's a bit funny that he had T.S. Eliot whittle down The Waste Land, but he himself didn't have the discipline to pare down his own work. This might be why his translations (The Seafarer, The River Merchant's Wife) seem to be more anthologized, and considered the more accessible portion of his work -- the limits of these poems were already in place, holding his ambition in check, thus allowing him to concentrate on the language, which he really did so well.
I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root -
Let there be commerce between us.
This is actually one of my favorite Pound poems, but it is not without problems. The beginning is solid, but in line 4, "Who has had" is needlessly awkward; obviously, "who had" would suffice. The last four lines are better, but Pound seems to be working against himself here. "Now is a time for carving" rather elegantly responds to the previous line and ties it up with maximum economy of syllables, not to mention a passionate call to arms. But Pound weakens it by continuing with two more lines metaphorically referencing sap, roots, commerce, etc., effectively giving the poem a second more academic ending that strays from his own extended metaphor!
Then again, I admit that Pound's critics (myself included) are probably at least partially responding to the academy's overblown response to Pound, rather than Pound himself. That is certainly the case with "In a Station of the Metro", which presents an interesting metaphor, but like the famous William Carlos Williams poem, "So much depends", seems to be the poetic equivalent of a good song played way too often on the radio.
All that being said, I find myself returning to the bittersweet imagery and wit of my favorite Pound poem, "Salutation", which seems as different from his more pompous works as night from day:
O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.
In conclusion, more power to those who enjoy Pound's work; they will enjoy this book as well, and that's what matters. It's just my opinion that Pound's talents were often inconsistent, and sadly, he often seems to be writing against himself, or leaving his chief talent (the creativity and humility of a haiku poet) out of his poems.
I'm pretty sure that Pound made the selections for this edition himself, though the editor adds a few cantos. Ezra Pound's work is exciting and really important for poets writing today. It's impossible to see how we got to where we are now without reading Ezra Pound.