Creative process in poetry: Ezra Pound’s views on poetic style

The poet and literary critic Ezra Pound has written, “No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life…”

A few other suggestions from Pound for the aspiring poet:

“Don’t use expressions such as ‘dim lands of peace.’ It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete.”

“Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t…try to shirk all the difficulties  of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.”

“Don’t assume that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music…”

“Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint…”

“Don’t allow ‘influence’ to mean merely that you mop up the particular decorative vocabulary of some one or two poets whom you happen to admire.”

“Use either no ornament or good ornament.”

Pound also suggests that a beginner poet fill [their]mind with the “finest cadences they can find, “preferably in a foreign language.”

As if by way of encouragement, one of Pound’s overall general pieces of advice to developing poets was to “Pay no attention to the criticism of [those] who have never written a notable work.” (1)

(1) Paraphrased commentary and direct quotations by Ezra Pound in this post are from an article written by Pound which was published in an anthology titled Poets on Poetry, published by Collier Books, New York, 1962


About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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