Today I want to talk about a poem by Ezra Pound. Now, you may have noticed that I don’t have the usual screen shot of Goodreads where I give a star rating to whatever it is I’m reviewing. Or you’ve never read my blog before and have no idea what I’m going on about in which case hi, welcome! But the reason that screen shot is missing is that this is a really short poem and is therefore not on Goodreads. However, it is so short that I can just copy and paste it right here for your enjoyment:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Yep, two whole lines, but there are actually a lot a really interesting things happening in these two lines.
First, some history. This is a poem from the Imagism movement of the 1910s (click the link for more info). Basically, the writers wanted to capture a single instance in time and they took inspiration from Japanese haiku because it was a short poetic form. Interesting since, if you include the title with the poem, it’s actually a haiku–mind blown.
It might also be useful to understand what Pound was trying to do with this poem besides describe a metro station. Pound stated that the image or feeling he was trying to capture in this poem should actually have been expressed in paint but since he isn’t a painter, he had to try and find words to describe it:
I found, suddenly, the expression. I do not mean that I found words, but there came an equation … not in speech, but in little spotches of colour. It was just that — a “pattern,” or hardly a pattern, if by “pattern” you mean something with a “repeat” in it. But it was a word, the beginning, for me, of a language in colour.Pound’s commentary on this poem in The Fortnightly Review (1914)
For me, as a painter and a writer, this is a very intriguing idea–the thought that splotches of colour and language can be interchanged. Maybe I’m still just spending too much time thinking about how images and words are basically the same thing since I spent so much time on my blog post about The Sandman.
Another instance of interchangeability is the juxtaposition of the inside in the first line and the outside in the second line. It kind of feels like two separate images that are being smashed together if a semicolon (I mean, who knows who those work anyway?) but I always like to believe that writers do things for a reason.
For one, there is a link to transparency in both my idea of an apparition and wet petals and the arbitrary nature of a crowd of people in an enclosed space and petals being confined to a single location. So already there seems to be a lot of parallels between these two seemingly separate images. There’s also this breakdown of the tableau into individual parts: the faces in the crowd but not the crowd itself, and the petals instead of the whole flower.
Honestly, the more I think about this poem the more things I find in it that I like. I can respect someone who is able to put more depth into two lines than I can into 50 pages. And, most important of all, it made me want to find other poems by Pound, and I think you should too.
Personal Note: Sorry about not posting anything last week. Life is a very time consuming thing and I was also sick. I’m still fighting a cold and I still have way too many projects happening all at once but I wanted to keep posting stuff here and I was kind of afraid that if I stepped away from it too long I would never come back so here I am! (hears song from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels mind–look it up, it’s pretty fun). I’ll have another post in Saturday as per usual.