Peycho Kanev's Reviews > The Cantos

The Cantos by Ezra Pound
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Aug 23, 11

bookshelves: poetry
Read from July 28 to August 23, 2011

One of the greatest wordsmiths ever. Reading Pound, one feels the weight of civic responsibility. Pound rages at what he sees rending Western Civilization from its roots. He discloses history by mentioning it, using events as metaphors, as expressions, as examples of his points, and in doing this he expects you to know them. Pound's poetry convicts one to read Dante, to read Homer, to read the Troubadours. The Cantos really has no plot. The poem consists of approximately 120 shorter poems (themselves called "cantos," after the sections into which Dante divided each book of his Divine Comedy), some of which tell unified stories and some of which are simply collections of musings, observations, memories, and exhortations. To some extent (in my opinion) to really be able to understand the Cantos you have to strive to become Pound. This is not something the academics are willing to do, and many of them (in my opinion) miss the whole point. To become Pound means allowing yourself to become accept a certain sort of craziness. Putting aside questions of identifiable mental illness, there is a way in which Pound, in the Cantos, is often just not in touch with rationality as we ordinarily understand it. This is the craziness of someone who sees something that other people don't see (which is not in itself crazy) and who expects that other people will also see it if he just shows it to them. Like I said one of the greatest wordsmiths. Ever.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Garrett (new) - added it

Garrett Dunnington Wow, this was one of the best reviews I have read on here. Fantastic! I am inspired to read Cantos now :)


message 2: by Reese (new)

Reese In spite of my hostile attitude toward Pound and his beliefs, I can't withhold the praise that your review deserves.


Speakwright I agree that in order to get into the work you have to let yourself get lost, to voyage in the work like he's voyaging in the world. It's so interesting to me that he had faith that everything would eventually come together, and later had to admit that it never did. It's that admission that makes his journey with all it's mythic, historical, moral underpinnings really fascinating to me. I had a lot of resistance to him because of the male adventurer aspect which I had to struggle identify with, being female. His view on women as either mystical beings or traps is very classical, but not very friendly. He's not very friendly in general, to a lot of people. He's part of a kind of mythical generation though... one that didn't question many of the stances and biases he had, (short of supporting Mussolini perhaps) although they are historically condemned. It's interesting to compare a youthful picture of him with one taken in old age. His face itself seems to be a ship smashed on the unkind rocks of time, having been battered in rough seas both internal and external. He is also that uncommon U.S. poet who faced political imprisonment and underwent a good deal of trauma (mental and otherwise) while held in an outdoor prison in American occupied Italy. However I feel about him personally, he changed the landscape of American poetry (at least), supported and shaped many other experimental poets and is therefore someone to study, whether one agrees with his views or is even able to sympathize with him (which I often find difficult.) I don't mean to preach at all, just hungry to share my experiences with someone else who has made a stab at this serious(ly crazy) tome.


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