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This review is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

A LONG ADDICTION Donald Davie, Studies in Ezra Pound (Carcanet), £25.00

Let the truth be told: Ezra Pound is, for most readers of poetry, a shut book - unlike his great contemporaries Yeats and Eliot. Yet when Hugh Kenner wrote his survey of the modernist period, he could not help but name it The Pound Era. Whatever may have been his historical importance, Pound comes to us weighed down with a reputation for 'difficulty' and political brutality that repels the general reader before the vivacity of his writing can take effect.

More than twenty years ago, put off in just this way but glimpsing the vivacity, I sought guidance. I found it in Donald Davie's compellingly readable Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor, now reprinted in his Studies in Ezra Pound. The book answered so many of my questions that I still recommend it to those in a similar quandary. But it is much more than a fine introduction. It is one of the great modern books on poetry as such: how we read it, how its rhythms work on our minds, how the images spill over into ideas.

Several passages are fixed in my memory. There is the early poem in which Pound recalls a walking-tour of Provence in quest of the Troubadours. Davie proves the force of the technical innovations by re-writing a passage in the old iambic line. At once we see how Pound's dismembered line, stepped down the page, leads the reader's mind through the process of perception and discovery, making us conscious ...


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