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This review is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

POUND'S ACHIEVEMENT Michael Alexander, The Poetic Achievement of Ezra Pound (Faber) £7.95

Over fifty bookios have been written on Pound's poetry since Hugh Kenner's pioneering study appeared in 1951. It is likely that the growth of such a vast critical industry has put many readers of intelligence off direct enjoyment of the poems. Most of the books have been of high quality (apart from David C. Heymann's disreputable and inaccurate piece of journalism, The Last Rower) but they have indulged in too much jargon, often making the Cantos appear more esoteric than they actually are. Yeats once dismissed the work of a minor poet with the words, 'He lacks chaos'. Too many of Pound's critics have engaged in vain attempts to squeeze his abundant 'chaos' into various and ingenious systems. But the work is too live for this. Such criticism is really a form of bastard creative work. Michael Alexander's lively study is therefore welcome, as it is entirely without faults of this kind.

Alexander is not a professional critic, but a poet who has produced the finest versions of Anglo-Saxon poetry of the twentieth century. He is therefore particularly fitted to free Pound's poetry from the clutches of the academics. He traces the development of the work from 'The Tree' (1907) until the final Drafts and Fragments (1970). He is good at expressing its essential qualities; that clarity of perception, purity of image, and sheer passion, that make Pound the most rewarding poet of the twentieth century. Alexander gets to the root of what the experience of reading ...


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