Excerpt of an essay on poetic theory by Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

"A Retrospect" and "A Few Don'ts"


Imagism — a literary movement that began in the U.S.A. in 1912 — has come and gone, but its shadow still lingers in contemporary poetry.  Imagists focused on the visual aspect of poetry as they looked for dry clarity among concrete images. Just like sculpture, they took poetry as an art that could be chiseled out from everyday objects.


Ezra Pound was a reknown Imagist who had many views on the topic.  We hope that you will find them interesting, and join in to share your own. 


Here's an extract from his lengthy essay on Imagism:


   1.  To use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not

        the nearly exact, nor the merely decorative word.

   2.  Go in fear of abstractions.  Do not retell in mediocre verse what has

        already been done in good prose.

   3.  Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency

        either to acknowledge the debt outright or to try to conceal it.

   4.  To produce a poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite. 

   5.  Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave unless

        you want a definite longish pause. 


While many of the contemporary poets agree to disagree with Pound's manifesto, it certainly provides some food for thought.  


If your poetic curiosity is piqued, here's the fuller essay: 

"A Retrospect" and "A Few Don'ts" by Ezra Pound



Essay by Editorial Team The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2020-08-30 at 00:00

Tags American  Imagism 

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bibek adhikari The PoetBay support member heart!
Thanks, Jim, Larry, and Joe, for your response. I can totally relate to them. I've enjoyed many of Pound's early poems, but with his Cantos, he seemed to have forgotten all his rules and advice. There's a literary joke that goes as "Pound took all the waste from the first draft of Eliot's Wasteland and kept it in his Cantos." Well, yes, he was a complicated man -- and an eccentric poet too, but the things he said about poetry is still intriguing. :)

josephus The PoetBay support member heart!
Interesting... I must confess, Iíve not been a very apt student of poetry. Iíve enjoyed reading it and thoroughly enjoy trying to write it but itís history, structure, nomenclature, definitions and mechanics seem to have not been of interest to me then or now.

Lawrence Beck The PoetBay support member heart!
Imagism was a healthy response to the dreadful, gloppy poetry that was being written in the nineteenth century. What Pound says in the excepts you've provided is excellent advice. As Jim observes, Pound didn't always follow that advice, and, unfortunately, many poets, then as now (T.S. Eliot being a perfect example), haven't understood that jotting down arresting images without giving them anywhere to go doesn't make for very compelling verse.

jim The PoetBay support member heart!
I really enjoyed this, Bibek. Thank you. I think this kind of contribution to poetbay will be a good thing.

When Pound writes:

4. To produce a poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.

I scoff, considering his Cantos. He should have heeded his own advice. But much of his poetry is "hard and clear."

As is known, he was a complicated man.