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This report is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

The Common Language Michael Schmidt
Poor Ezra Pound. He's become a tool of critics. A sledgehammer, as often as not. His obiter dicta, the dogmatic early 'Don'ts', are gospel for some-even for some who have not attended to the poetry.

I remember a Poundian code we used when I was at school: GIFOA-which translated as Go In Fear Of Abstractions. So we went in fear of abstractions. We also 'made it new'-releasing our originalities in unspeakable free verse and at all costs avoiding the 'metronome'. I wonder how closely we had read Pound's Propertius, the Cantos, even 'Mauberley'? The fact that I can't remember must indicate something. Pound was at once a hygiene and a licence. We came to the poetry later.

Ours was the zeal of children, but as we grew older we found we could tolerate an occasional iambic pentameter . . . even a rhyme. Sometimes, usually in private, we would emit an abstraction. We began to regard Pound as a poet rather than a Master, and it was then that we began really to learn something from him, each according to his own lights. One of Pound's great services was advocacy of works and writers deserving close attention-not the 'Don'ts' but the ABC and other essays-the 'Do's', as it were.

Professor Marjorie Perloff uses Pound as a tool-even a weapon -and it saddens me as much for her sake as for his. In her richly provocative review of British Poetry since 1970 (PNR 19) she shows ...

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