Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pound for Pound: The Do's and Don'ts . . .

“It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.”

“Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work.”

“Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.”

“Don’t retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.”

“Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music . . . .”

“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.”

“Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably in a foreign language so that the meaning of the words may be less likely to divert his attention from the movement”

“Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counter-point and all the minutiae of his craft.”

“Don’t be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.”

“Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.

The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are ‘all over the shop.’ Is it any wonder ‘the public is indifferent to poetry?’”

“A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure; it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all.”

“Translation is likewise good training, if you find that your original matter ‘wobbles’ when you try to rewrite it. The meaning of the poem to be translated can not ‘wobble.’”

(Ezra Pound, “A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste”)

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