Creative process in Poetry: Ezra Pound: A poet’s key required qualities

In a wide-raging interview on literature in general with Donald Hall for the Paris Review  in 1962* Ezra Pound was asked what he considered to be the most important quality a poet could possess and whether Pound considered such an attribute to be  formal or a quality of thinking.

Pound answered, “I don’t know that you can put the needed qualities in hierarchical order, but he must have a continuous curiosity, which of course does not make him a writer, but if he hasn’t got that he will wither. And the question of doing anything about it depends on a persistent energy… The transit from the reception of stimuli, to the recording, to the correlation, that is what takes the whole energy of a lifetime.”

When asked what advice Pound might have for a young poet, Pound replied: “To improve their curiosity and not to fake. But that is not enough. The mere registering of bellyache and the mere dumping of the ashcan is not enough. In fact, the University of Pennsylvania student Punchbowl used to have as its motto, ‘Any damn fool can be spontaneous.'”

So, in his answers Pound has made a distinction and has chosen to focus  on three intellectual, emotional, or character qualities rather than on technical capabilities:

Continuous curiosity
Persistent energy
Honesty, not faking

Pound addressed the technical attributes or capabilities a poet should possess in his book ABC of Reading, and other writings

Note: In reference to this printed interview, an editor’s or writer’s notes comments: “Mr. Pound’s health made it impossible for him to finish proofreading this interview. The text is complete, but may contain details which Mr. Pound would have changed under happier circumstances.”

* Writers at Work, The Paris Review Interviews, Second Series, Edited by George Plimpton, Introduced by Van Wyck Brooks, Penguin Books, 1963, 1979

Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

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