This book is so old I can't even find a picture to go with it, sorry.
As part of National Poetry month, I tried to read as much poetry as I could, which will trickle down into reviews here as time goes on.
One of the things I tackled was some Ezra Pound, a poet I've had on my "to-read" list for quite a while now.
Maybe I shouldn't have gone with an early work, or maybe I just have to accept that I am far more comfortable with the poetry of the personal, because for me this Pound was only worth a few cents.
(I apologize, that was terrible. Blame my editor. Oh wait, I don't have one.)
In a little over 100 pages of early poems and notebook work, there is simply not a single poem I liked, not even just a little bit. Usually, I can find at least one or two good poems even from a poet I dislike. But Pound's lines are just so blandly constructed on subjects that feel so artificial--a troubadour, dryads, old men with troubles, and the like, all portrayed as distant actors, without a chance to get close to the reader.
It's almost like reading Shakespeare without talent, or a homage to old poetry without a sense of irony that someone like Atwood might try. It's not that I object to the subject matter. I am going to rave about a poet that uses Barbie as her subject sometime soon, so I'm not saying you have to write from what you know. You can write a good poem, even today, about any of those things I list above. But the language Pound uses feels outdated even for the early 20th Century and today is just downright painful to slog through. I don't get this many "thee" and "thou" references when I read old Stan Lee Thor comics!
Here's a few snippets of the poems, chosen more or less at random.
From La Fraisne:
"For I was a gaunt, grave councilor
Being in all things wise, and very old,
But I have put aside this folly and the cold
That old age weareth for a cloak."
From Villonaud for the Yule:
"Towards the Noel that morte saison
(Christ make the shepherd's homage dear!)
Then when the grey wolves everychone
Drink of the winds their chill small-beer
And lap o' the snows food's gueredon
Then makyth my heart his yule-tide cheer
(Skoal! with the dregs if the clear be gone!)
Wineing the ghosts of yester-year."
The Tree (entire):
"I stood still and was a tree amid the wood
Knowing the truth of things unseen before,
Of Daphne and the laurel bow
And that god-feasting couple olde
That grew elm-oak amid the wold.
'twas not until the gods had been
Kindly entreated and been brought within
Unto the hearth of their heart's home
That they might do this wonder-thing.
Nathless I have been a tree amid the wood
And many new things understood
That were rank folly to my head before."
This last example may be the best poem in the book, but even so, it's horribly dated for the time it's written, at least in my opinion. (I had a similar reaction to Robinson Jeffers' poetry.)
I do understand that this is Pound's early work, so maybe it gets better over time. I also think that those who like classical poetry post Shakespeare through the Victorian age (I don't) would enjoy the overwrought writings in this collection. But when your poetry requires footnotes by the poet, I think you're on thin ice and I'm pretty sure I don't want to read more, at least for awhile.
If you find yourself drawn to Kim Addonizio, Mark Doty, and other writers of the very personal, this is not the book for you. It's going to remind you of at least one of your interminable college english classes, where this type of writing was your professor's favorite. If you are a fan of classic poetry only, give this a shot. I have a feeling you'll like it. If you need me, I'll be hanging out with my complete works of Alan Ginsburg, something you'd be unlikely to enjoy. Luckily for us, poetry's nice and varied that way.
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