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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

Smallish Gulps ezra pound, Selected Poems and Translations, ed. Richard Sieburth (Faber & Faber) £16.99

Visiting him in St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital, the poet Charles Olson found Ezra Pound to be 'as charming and open and warm a human being as I know. Despite all the corruption of his politic. It is this contradiction which keeps me from turning my back on him'. There is something endearing in Pound's ability to undermine himself so completely. His poetic theories emphasised simplicity - 'Go in fear of abstractions' - while his poetry became increasingly opaque. He championed John Adams and Mussolini, almost side by side. Richard Sieburth, in this new Faber Selected Poems and Translations of Ezra Pound, explains these contradictions by classing Pound as 'perhaps the last major poet in the Ovidian tradition'. As such, he is a poet who is constantly changing, dropping masks and donning new ones. Sieburth opens his selection with 'The Tree', an early poem about transformation, courtesy of The Metamorphoses.

Sieburth has tried to flesh out the case for Pound's poetry. This book is thereby a bulky improvement on its comparatively slim predecessor Selected Poems 1908-1969, also from Faber. Importantly, Sieburth has added the Translations section to the Pound canon. These poems depict a very different side to the poet who penned the 'YIDDISH CHARLESTON'. They reveal Pound's most attractive traits, namely his openness to other cultures and his willingness to import and blend traditions from around the world. The translations of Confucius nicely counteract the Parnassian Pound of The Cantos. Here he is driven by a rougher ...


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