Discuss Ezra Pound's use of classic mythology in his poetry.
Pound believed that the classics were the pinnacle of art and literature. Back in ancient Greece and Rome, society revered these masterpieces, but Pound felt that during his time, profit-mongering had corrupted the art world. In his work, Pound drew heavily from ancient tales of gods and goddesses. In "A Girl," he alludes to the story of Apollo and Daphne, and in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," Pound refers to the classic deities as the ultimate representation of beauty. Though they deal with many topics, The Cantos begin and end with Odysseus's journey. Pound frequently associated himself with Odysseus throughout this monumental work. He compared his literary and social interactions in Europe with Odysseus's quest to return home.
What autobiographical details does Pound use in his poetry? What is the function of these personal allusions?
In the latter half of his career, Pound began to place himself directly in his poetry and speak from his own point of view, which is evident in both "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" and The Cantos. He would clearly state his own opinions on politics, economics, and other societal matters without fear of criticism. He would also draw inspiration from his environment at the time. Once he moved to Italy, Pound began to write about fascism and the political leaders of the late 1930s and 1940s. In his early poetry, Pound was able to compose poems with different perspectives, but as he got older, his life experiences narrowed the scope of his opinions. For example, when he explores the concept of love and marriage, he hints at his own struggles, which increased after he began an extra-marital affair while living in Paris.
How did Pound's support of Imagism affect his own work? Is it accurate to label him an Imagist?
Pound certainly supported Imagism and developed the concept as an antithesis to the flowery language of the Victorian and Romantic poets. However, although Imagism certainly paved the way for many modernist poets, Pound did realize throughout his career that poetic styles are not "one size fits all." Imagism suited his earlier poetry—"In a Station of the Metro," "A Girl," and "A Pact," to name a few—but for his longer works, like "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" and "The Cantos," he realized that a concise, compact, and non-abstract style would not work and embraced a more wordy, free-verse style. However, Imagism and modernism showed many poets that they could employ less verbose styles in their work, and readers, too, would become more open-minded about poetic form in general - thanks to the innovative techniques of Pound and his contemporaries.
What kinds of controversy did Pound's poetry cause?
While Ezra Pound was living and writing in Europe, Hitler and Mussolini came into the international spotlight as the fascist leaders of Germany and Italy, respectively. Pound quickly became absorbed in fascist politics while living in Italy. The longer he lived there, the stronger his antisemitic opinions became. However, these hateful views were unfortunately not limited to Pound. Europe was rife with propaganda that blamed Jews for "polluting the human race." Pound was also the kind of poet who reflected his environment in his work. In The Cantos, Pound openly appraises fascism, criticizes many world leaders, and speaks out against specific Jewish families like the Rothschilds. Ultimately, Pound's hateful views drove readers away. Even though Pound's intelligence was undeniable, his prejudices understandably prevent contemporary readers from understanding or respecting his later work.
How does Pound explore economics in his poetry? Use specific examples
Pound's interest in economics is evident in his early Imagist work. Imagism centers on the economy of language and efficient word choice, which is a thematic way for him to connect the form and content. He explores ideas of trade and commerce in a number of his shorter poems. For example, in "Portrait d'une Femme," he imagines an intellectual exchange between the female protagonist and the "great minds" who come to her for ideas, stories, and knowledge. In "A Pact," Pound writes, "Let there be commerce between us," to poet Walt Whitman, as if he's decided to accept Whitman's influence. Pound's specific opinions on economics are evident throughout The Cantos. He examines historical examples and uses them to condemn usury and the interest system. He also vilifies American capitalism and predatory banking practices.
What does Pound mean when he says he wanted The Cantos to bring cohesion to the universe? Did he fail or succeed, and how?
The Cantos are a result of Pound reflecting on all the information, stories, and opinions that are swirling in his mind, which he had collected over a lifetime of moving, wandering, and learning. Pound was extremely well-informed about world history and politics, and in The Cantos, a massive book-length poem, he attempts to unite all his thoughts and show how everything is connected. He did manage to weave together certain historical patterns in unique ways, and in each canto, Pound takes a certain aspect of the previous one and expands on it. However, many readers and scholars alike find The Cantos to be scattered and overly-ambitious - Pound loaded the piece with so much information that it is difficult to unravel every single message he was trying to convey. He seems to have understood the impossible nature of his task - at the end of the final complete canto, he acknowledges that no poet or human being could achieve total coherence.
Compare and contrast Ezra Pound journey with that of Homer's Odysseus, whom Pound frequently associated himself with. Discuss how this comparison is evident in The Cantos.
Many of Pound's poems reflected ideas of journey and transformation, probably because Pound felt like he had undergone one himself. Both Pound and Odysseus set out on their journeys for a purpose: Pound wanted to change society's views on literature and art, and Odysseus was trying to return home after a bloody war. Pound begins and ends The Cantos with allusions to Odysseus's journey - at the end, Odysseus is finally is able to return home, but it has changed in his absence. Pound's journey back to America ended tragically, though - he was imprisoned for his fascist and anti-semitic views. The fact that Pound compares himself to Odysseus suggests that Pound viewed himself as a hero, and this ego likely played a part in his desire to share his hateful opinions with the world.
What role does aesthetic beauty play in Pound's poetry? How does he explore this topic?
Pound places a lot of importance on beauty and aesthetics; the entirety of "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" is the poet's attempt to get the rest of the world to value beauty as much as he did. Pound often uses symbols of beauty in his work, particularly goddesses such as Aphrodite (Venus in her Roman form). He also mines the natural world for images of purity. For example, in "In a Station of the Metro," Pound compares the faces on the subway platform to flower petals on a tree branch. In The Cantos, he uses light as an additional representation of beauty. In the last few sections of The Cantos, Pound employs metaphors and figurative language involving light as he attempts to craft his own version of paradise.
Why did Pound strive to create a paradise at the end of The Cantos?
Pound had a very idealistic view of the world and spent his life looking for his own version of paradise. He would move from place to place, unsatisfied with the corruption and greed that modernity brought into many European cities. In his writing, Pound often escaped into a paradisiacal setting because this vision in his mind was a favorable alternative to the degraded version of society he saw before him. By including paradise in the Cantos, Pound felt that he could convince others to share his viewpoint. He uses images of light and the natural world in order to illustrate his vision. However, his goal for the final canto fell short because he could not extricate his own prejudiced opinions and self-hatred from his work.
Do you consider Ezra Pound to be a successful poet? Did he think he was successful? Why or why not?
Later in his career, Pound alienated most of his readership because of his heavily fascist and antisemitic opinions. However, it is hard to deny Pound's impact on the world of modern poetry. The Imagist movement, in particular, has been extremely influential, and countless poets have employed this style in their work. In addition, while Pound felt that he failed to create the universal cohesion that he hoped for in The Cantos, the massive work has moments of uniquely insightful commentary and perspective. Pound's influence is clearly evident in the careers of many of his contemporaries, whom he edited and advised, like Robert Frost, e. e. cummings, George Oppen, and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few. While Ezra Pound's fervent political beliefs marred his legacy, he did make some positive contributions to modern poetry that will resonate for generations to come.