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ABC of Reading

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This important work, first published in 1934, is a concise statement of Pound’s aesthetic theory. With characteristic vigor and iconoclasm, Pound illustrates his precepts with exhibits meticulously chosen from the classics, and the concluding “Treatise on Meter” provides an illuminating essay for anyone aspiring to read and write poetry. The ABC of Reading emphasizes Pound's ability to discover neglected and unknown genius, distinguish originals from imitations, and open new avenues in literature for our time.

210 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1934

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About the author

Ezra Pound

380 books859 followers
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet, critic and intellectual who was a major figure of the Modernist movement in early-to-mid 20th century poetry.

Pound's The Cantos contains music and bears a title that could be translated as The Songs—although it never is. Pound's ear was tuned to the motz et sons of troubadour poetry where, as musicologist John Stevens has noted, "melody and poem existed in a state of the closest symbiosis, obeying the same laws and striving in their different media for the same sound-ideal - armonia."

In his essays, Pound wrote of rhythm as "the hardest quality of a man's style to counterfeit." He challenged young poets to train their ear with translation work to learn how the choice of words and the movement of the words combined. But having translated texts from 10 different languages into English, Pound found that translation did not always serve the poetry: "The grand bogies for young men who want really to learn strophe writing are Catullus and François Villon. I personally have been reduced to setting them to music as I cannot translate them." While he habitually wrote out verse rhythms as musical lines, Pound did not set his own poetry to music.

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Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,041 followers
June 11, 2013
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.

I don't know what the hell I'm doing. This was something I started to read in the bookstore because I happened to pick it up. I had been looking for something else. Mostly I didn't want to go home that day and I had read quite a bit of it already. So after reading most of it in the store (jumping around here and there, pulling on my ear reflexively) I may as well have bought it. So I bought it. Cha-ching.

There were times aplenty when he pounded my ears with ringings of "He can't be serious? But I LIKE Wordsworth, or I think I liked him a long time ago. I don't remember now." Edith Sitwell certainly loved him. I was reading her ecstatic descriptions of his merits earlier this day. Everyone is a critic as the saying goes. I'll have to go back and make up my own mind (again). You know what they say about opinions and assholes and what everyone has. I'm sure that I don't like Henry James half as much as Ezra Pound did.

There was a forty-five paged original treatise laying out Mr. Pounds what have yous before this new and expounded on edition came out to stick it to the naysayers. Every now and again he will say why such and such person is wrong. I had the feeling of in-jokes or just-for-this-person notes sometimes. It's mildly amusing or tedious if he stopped writing about something more interesting to say what that person had been wrong. He wasn't writing about novels so it was a silly complaint that his smaller book wasn't about novels. What the reviews say of this being very much a "personality" work is true. The gesticulations leap off the page. He probably would have had a ball posting and commenting on goodreads.

I'm pussyfooting around. I don't know if I know how to read poetry. I never read it aloud. I'll hum it in my head. It isn't unlike the music I hear in my head that I've never heard anywhere else. I will read lines and reread lines and go back. If how it is supposed to sound is how it sounds to me I don't know. I don't want to try so hard. By Pounds standards one should publish poetry before they can critique it. I consider it more attempting to place myself with something else to write my "reviews". Catch Road Runner and Wile Coyote before they run away with what I want. I have never taken long over a sentence. If it doesn't flow naturally I don't want to do it at all. It's the heart's version of the writer's block if I am too worried about how I will sound. This is something I sometimes call my "fly by the seat of my pants" writing or "plane-jumping". It is the freedom feeling I have to have. Later I'll feel miserable over my lack of clarity. If I'm not "reading" correctly I want to at least be able to sense or intuit correctly, or at least honestly. I really want to read with the freedom feeling, like thinking without words. What I want has nothing to do with this book, though. What I do probably doesn't look like anything anyone else does. I don't know what my inside poetry music sounds outside.

According to Pound one should be able to speak and write in multiple languages. Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Chinese (I don't think he liked the Germans. One of the times that made me shake my head was when he pronounced there weren't any good German poets). This is the main criteria of ABC of reading. If you are unwilling to stick the babel fish in your ear then you don't really want to read poetry. The idea is that there aren't any languages capable of expressing all you could want or need to express. There are no languages that encompass everything. I don't know if I want to be able to express everything. Maybe some things are not meant to be said. Maybe you could get something beautiful out of what you can bend the English language to do (English readers only he writes to grudgingly). The what is not said sensed with what is said could be an expression closer to what you truly want. If you are putting together words that no one has ever used together before to express something real that's beautiful to me too. I wish that I could read the Italian poetry. I wish that I could read everything (well, not everything. Some stuff looks wholly without appeal). I don't share his loftier position for the innovators either. I guess coming to so many great books hundreds of years after they have been written and copied speaks more for the truth of why it resonates than how it is said. I guess as far as writing poetry how it is said is a lot. But if you watch someone dance do you want to dance like them and feel their consciousness of form or do you want to feel as free as they seem to feel? What is fresh forever must be something about what is said and not just how it is said. At least that's how it seems to me.

Pound does question the reader if they feel coming out of them what they have just read if they write after reading. In their voice, or whose voice? An exercise suggested to students is to parody a poem they find particularly ridiculous. Do they transcend its foolishness or poke at the superficial weakness in their eyes? I liked this idea to see if the poem survives this persistent treatment. The other exercise I liked was to describe a tree and have that tree be recognizable from any other tree. Flaubert was said to instruct de Maupassant to describe a clerk on the street and he would be distinguishable to Flaubert from any other clerk.

It was interesting (although suspect) what he writes about Chinese pictograms. I liked that he had the "Seafarer" poem translated into Chinese and the pictogram for its story have not been used in any other poem that he knows of. What I liked was having something identifiable in a word. If you were going to describe red without using the color red you could demonstrate with the pictogram a flamingo and other similarly hued objects. That they can suggest something related is intriguing to me and I think again that it is enough to not have to say "red" to mean it. You can feel close and similar and not have to hold the set definition in your hands.

I also didn't know about the changing in inflections (he called them tags. This is all new to me) in languages and how that related to newer translations of the much older poems. Which poets learned their tags and meter from Homer although they didn't write in Greek. I probably won't think about any of this again.

He is kind of infuriating, really. His advice is contradicted on snobby grounds pretty often. For example, poets suffer from not learning musical theory. But they shouldn't bother studying in a conservatory because no one knows how to teach music properly anyway. If I took this seriously I suppose I would have become depressed after some of this stuff. I'm pretty hopeless with language. I have to work every day and it has taken me my whole life to read what I have already read. I'm far from well read and I read every day. But I don't need anyone else to tell me what to read. The how I read has changed so often (Pound had ideas about changing literary taste. I could easily waste precious daydreaming time tracing back my own changing taste. Would I still like this? It gets to where you don't "count" what you've read ten, fifteen years ago and then feel even less well read than you had before). If I'm not doing the books justice I think (at least) I'm coming to them with a fair shake. So none of that stuff about almost only the ancient stuff is any good (Pound was dubious of the old idea that ALL Greeks were better than ALL Latins and still he comes out with similarly fishy things).

Beyond which we will never recover the art of writing to be sung until we begin to pay some attention to the sequence, or scale, of vowels in the line, and of the vowels terminating the group of lines in a series.

I wish I was musical. I wonder how he compared the dramatists to the ancient poets as having a medium that existed in movement. If you charge with meaning through music (inside or outside) that seems to me to also charge words with meaning.

The other day I came across this from Harold Pinter:

“Language, under these conditions, is a highly ambiguous commerce. So often, below the words spoken, is the thing known and unspoken. My characters tell me so much and no more, with reference to their experience, their aspirations, their motives, their history. Between my lack of biographical data about them and the ambiguity of what they say there lies a territory which is not only worthy of exploration but which it is compulsory to explore. You and I, the characters which grow on a page, most of the time we’re inexpressive, giving little away, unreliable, elusive, evasive, obstructive, unwilling. But it’s out of these attributes that a language arises. A language, I repeat, where, underneath what is said, another thing is being said.”

There are so many ways to say that thing underneath and learning how to find that is important to me. I don't know of anywhere that tells you how to do that. I guess reading and taking it seriously what you read. I guess.
Profile Image for Melissa.
Author 2 books21 followers
February 8, 2008
Classic. I kind of love how it feels like he's yelling at you, with his fondness for caps and italics. Much wisdom and strong opinion to be found here; makes me want to work hard, read Homer in ancient Greek, etc.

"Music rots when it gets too far from the dance. Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music.

There are three kinds of melopoeia, that is, verse made to sing; to chant or intone; and to speak.
The older one gets the more one believes in the first."

"And it is my firm conviction that a man can learn more about poetry by really knowing and examining a few of the best poems than by meandering about among a great many."
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,821 reviews1,323 followers
February 21, 2016
The committed student needs to be wide awake, to look and listen closely, to slow down, scrutinize and reflect. The language of poetry is so dense, so multivalent, that it demands a concentrated act of attention — and offers its greatest rewards only to those who reread.

Predictably didactic and teeming with bombast, this is a sound primer to poetry and an illuminating insight into the turns and shifts Pound was making as the 1930s released a greasy slip into global catastrophe. Intriguing as Cranky Ezra proclaims Chaucer the father of European Verse and then picks examples of the subsequent tradition, many of which have since lapsed into obscurity. Prime those shovels, ye exhumers!
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
514 reviews109 followers
April 19, 2022
I read this WAY too fast because it was recalled from the library.

Some real bold brilliance here. Wise and all over the place and boldly wrong sometimes, with a lot of room where he admits he could be wrong.

Great and inspiring about how to be a better writer through reading and exercises and translation and so much more.

Also a lot of funny burns on famous people like Walt Whitman and Virgil. And a lot of STATEMENTS in all CAPS to be even bolder.
Profile Image for eric j.
1 review
March 22, 2007
At the outset, it's important to note that Mr. Pound offers ABC of Reading as a "text-book that can also be read 'for pleasure as well as profit' by those no longer in school; by those who have not been to school; or by those who in their college days suffered those things which most of my own generation suffered".

We're all duly welcomed to Mr. Pound's class. However, once the door is shut, he throws gut-bucket criticism at snobbishness, poor preparation, and laziness -- especially targeting the teacher who, by any of these vices, would lead any student away from the very personal road of discovery, i.e. away from critical thought that is no respecter of persons, even great persons. Too many jabs to count, but here are a couple of his friendliest (and well-placed) shots:

1. "Anybody who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books for ever."

2. "It would take a bile specialist to discover why the Oxford Book of Verses includes the first five strophes (of John Donne's "The Ecstasy") and then truncates the poem with no indication that anything has been omitted."

On this "no slackers" context he elaborates a simple core message: Look at a work for what it is and for what the author intends; then, learn by comparing it to worthy counterexamples. One example of Pound's guidance on this point: "The way to study Shakespeare is to study it side by side with something different and of equal extent. The proper antagonist is Dante who is of equal size and DIFFERENT. ...You can't judge any chemical's reaction merely by putting it with more of itself."

Pound also dares you to either study languages or remain ignorant to the weight of timeless literature. "There is no use...in my publisher asking me to make English literature as prominent as possible. I mean, not if I am to play fair with the student. You cannot learn to write by reading English." (Also, Read p. 35, par. 2 for the MOST telling and eloquent statement on this fact.)

In sum, Mr. Pound is far from dogmatic as many bill him. No man who issues a fair challenge can be considered so. He told you as much: "My lists (of poems) are a starting-point and a challenge. This challenge has been open for a number of years and no one has yet taken it up. There have been general complaints, but no one has offered a rival list." Calling him dogmatic thus becomes a wimp-out on an invitation to hard study and thought.

That said, it should not be lost on anyone that Pound's invitation is nearly the equivalent of the boxing critic being challenged to a round by Muhammad Ali in his prime.

Nevertheless, as students of literature and life, we should be willing to run Pound's gauntlet long before offering up any dogma on Pound himself or the work in question. Our only recourse, though, is it's own reward since we are free to fearlessly question even Mr. Pound along the way.

As a bonus, I believe any reader will gain even more by taking up the opening invitation to read the book "for pleasure as well as for profit". Do this times over and with a lens much wider than the literary. ABC of Reading then reads as a solid treatise on living and learning.

A Stillmatic move by pound... "You want beef? I hope you got yourself a gun." Pound and Nas agree. Come ready.
Profile Image for Eric.
566 reviews942 followers
July 8, 2008
Contains an advocacy of Chaucer more vehement than I ever heard from the professional Middle Englishers at college. 'You would not be far out if you chose to consider Chaucer as the father of litterae humaniores for Europe.' Huh. The appreciations of Gavin Douglas, Golding and Fielding also caught my mind.

After that, nothing much surprising: Shakespeare isn't a diety...Milton was a blockhead...it is VERY important to know Dante and Cavalcanti...English poetry after Browning is a limp, hazy decadence...at some point in history there was an ideal period of poetic homeostasis (Provencal, 1250-to the Renaissance; Tom says it was 17th century England ante Milton) that we--paradoxically called 'modernists' though our passion is an excavating nostalgia, an erudite primitivism--mean to mine for invigorating lessons.
Profile Image for Frankie.
231 reviews34 followers
December 20, 2013
Despite the pretentious name, this is not really a reading guide per se, more of a poetry appreciation guide. Especially for the first few chapters, where he preaches what he considers to be the canon of poetry classics. The final chapters feature a family tree of poetic samples that illustrate EP's points about writing poetry. There are some dull, pedantic areas of the text, but overall it's a very enlightening read.

Assuming that most readers will be multilingual is a stretch, yet Pound spends time early on describing the limitations of English-only study. There are some French and Latin phrases that need looking up. For the most part, however, he drops this point and segues to his primary thesis. EP's argument is basically this: Poetry evolved from music, and must remain true to it. "Poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music…" (p14) Later on page 156, he compares earlier times, when aristocratic men were taught both music and poetry together, to modern times when music is treated as a discipline and poetry as a pastime.

Another strong point EP makes is that literary criticism is usually flawed, because it attacks the author's perceived intentions instead of the author's work itself. By this, the critic assumes he is more intelligent than the author and able to perceive the exact reason and motivation for the work. This is both degrading and impossible. The critic should judge the work solely on its own merit. "…You can readily see that a good deal of BAD criticism has been written by men who assume that an author is trying to do what he is NOT trying to do. Incredible as it now seems, the bad critics of Keats' time found his writing 'obscure', which meant that they couldn't understand WHY Keats wrote." (p64)

Pound's critical concept arises again in the Chapter 8 section titled Perception. "The concept of [artistic] genius as akin to madness has been carefully fostered by the inferiority complex of the public…. A nation which neglects the perceptions of its artists declines. After a while it ceases to act and merely survives…. Before deciding whether a man is a fool or a good artist, it would be well to ask… 'does he see something we don't?'" (p82-83)

A good summation that embraces the title can be found on page 100: "Men do not understand BOOKS until they have had a certain amount of life….until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents. The prejudice against books has grown from observing the stupidity of men who have merely read books."
Profile Image for Matt.
1,010 reviews644 followers
December 26, 2008
Absolute punk rock book of insights, raves, rants, condemnations, fury and exquisite heft. I really enjoyed his puckish, piquant, I'm-Ezra-Pound-and-you're-not kinda vibe.

"Literature is news that STAYS news"....absolutely gaddamn right.

What I always find is the catch with books like this is that inevitably the writer starts to hymn works which the reader hasn't read or doesn't know thoroughly enough to be able to benefit from the insight. Pound falls victim to that here, albeit willingly. I had it at four stars at first, but I decided that him and his obscene erudition and his frilly named poetical terms have to lose a star, for obscurity and self-importance if nothing else.

But I love the manic energy that one can find all over the place, mostly in the beginning. And I respect his knowledge, uncompromising stances, verve, and sheer chutzpah.
Profile Image for Jenni.
171 reviews31 followers
July 30, 2007
I give this a 5 because I think this is what Pound was meant to do: teach and be a critic. I'm not crazy about his poems at all. There are some ridiculous demands in this book (like learning several foreign languages) but overall there's a ton of excellent insights. I especially like what he wrote about Chinese ideograms. As with most "craft" books, this one is meant to teach a person how to read, not write.
Profile Image for Adriana Scarpin.
1,358 reviews
January 25, 2016
A primeira parte consiste em observações que um leitor mais atento e voraz aprende lendo, a segunda parte é mais proveitosa por dar exemplos práticos da evolução da poesia em inglês com comentários pertinentes de Pound, com o porém que sou completamente uma negação em decifrar a linguagem dos poemas isabelinos, o que nos leva diretamente à terceira parte onde tais poemas são felizmente traduzidos na versão brasileira pelos irmãos Campos e Décio Pignatari.
Profile Image for James Henderson.
1,981 reviews166 followers
September 26, 2022
Mount Parnassus in Greek mythology is a mountain in central Greece where the Muses lived; it is known as the mythological home of music and poetry. The ABC of Reading is Ezra Pound's iconoclastic view of stages on the way to Parnassus -- to knowing the nature and meaning of literature. Pound was there at the beginning of the Modernist movement in literature. In fact one could argue that he invented it and he both discovered and encouraged fellow writers, T. S. Eliot is a prominent example, to persevere and "make it new". This spirit permeates this book and I believe it has not diminished over the decades. My beat up copy was obtained in Madison, Wisconsin at a used book store near the University. What an appropriate setting, for this book reads like an extension of the University expanding my education in time and through imagination. There are more ideas packed into just over two hundred pages in this little book than in many much larger tomes. The ideas are at one striking and sublime. Plus there are bon mots like this-- "Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree."(p 36) --in every chapter.
This classic retains "a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness" that makes it worth reading today; both for the challenge and for the insights into the nature of poetry and literature.
Profile Image for Mr..
149 reviews71 followers
October 8, 2008
Ezra pound's cryptic, and often arrogant pamphlet about the principles of successful poetry is an interesting insight into the quality of the artist as a learned reader of classical poetry in the lyric form (primarily). Pound does not value any critics who have not produced works of literature themselves, and he promotes individual taste above all else. Never the less, he establishes a basic canon of great lyric poetry, including (above all else) Shakespeare, Homer, Chaucer, and Dante. Pound does not believe you can understand the nature of poetry without being able to read Latin, Greek, French, and Italian, but of course this guidebook is coming from a true fanatic. It is debatable whether or not this book creates more problems than it solves in the domain of interpreting and reading poetry, but it is clearly the aesthetic of a brilliant writer, and it is an essential facet of the modernist perspective.
Profile Image for Gabriela Ventura.
294 reviews102 followers
July 5, 2018
Um ensaio de 1934 que ainda tem tanto a dizer.

O Pound era um sujeito completamente maluco e ambicioso - duas qualidades que eu considero indispensáveis para ser um bom artista, mas, sobretudo, para ser um excelente professor de literatura. O método ideogrâmico para a leitura de poesia não é apenas brilhante, mas dá um trabalho do cacete. Você tem que pensar para além da sua língua, do seu tempo, do seu umbigo.

Escrever qualquer um escreve. Ser um grande leitor é uma tarefa muito, mas muito mais difícil.

Mesmo diante de tanto rigor (imposto a si mesmo, sobretudo, mas também a seus alunos) Pound, no fundo, quer que cada um leia, pense e descubra por si.

“Literatura é linguagem carregada de significado. Grande literatura é simplesmente linguagem carregada de significado no mais alto grau possível”
Profile Image for Tosh.
Author 12 books604 followers
January 1, 2008
You are kicked out of every institution, but you still can get a good introduction to literature via Ezra Pound and this book. I read it as a teenager at the right time and right place. Maybe it will happen to you... as well.
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
291 reviews9 followers
March 18, 2016
Поезията на Pound е меко казано впечатляваща, не вярвам изобщо да има човек, който да се опита да го оспори. Това, което не подозирах- колко изумително ерудирана личност е самият Pound. Нещо, което осъзнах напълно едва в "ABC of reading".
Колкото и пъти да препрочитам негови творби, винаги изскача нещо ново, на което да ме научи.

"Мрачната помпозност няма място дори и в най-щателното изучаване на изкуство, първоначално създадено да радва сърцето. "

"Класиката е класика не защото спазва някакви структурни правила, или се вписва в дадени определения (които авторите най-вероятно нивга не са и чували). Едно произведение е класика благодарение на вечната си и непотушима свежест."

" Ако искаш да откриеш нещо за художественото изкуство, отиваш в Националната галерия, или салонът “Каре”, или Брера, или Прадо, и ГЛЕДАШ картини.
За всеки един човек, който чете книги върху живопис, има поне 1000 които отиват да ВИДЯТ самите картини. Слава Богу!"

"Поредица съвпадения ми позволиха (1933г.) да демонстрирам тезата на “Как да четем” чрез средства, по-близки до поезията от живописта. Група сериозни музиканти (Герхарт Мюнк, Олга Ръдж, Луиджи Сансони), с общинската зала на наше разположение (Рапало), ние представихме, между други неща, следната програма:

10 окт.
От ръкописа Чилесоти. Транскрипция на Мюнк: Франческо да Милано: “Канцоне дели Учели”, преработка на Клеман Жанекен.
Джовани Терци: Сюита ди Бало.
Корели: Соната в Ла мажор, за две цигулки и пиано.
Йохан Себастиан Бах. Соната в До мажор. ditto
Дебюси: Соната за пиано и цигулка.

5 дек.
Колекция Чилесоти: Севери: две арии
Ронкали: Прелюдия
Джигуа, Пасакалия
Бах: Токата (за соло пиано, ред. Бусони).
Бах: Концерт в Ре мажор за две цигулки и пиано.
Равел: Соната за цигулка и пианофорте.

Нямаше нищо случайно. Целта на експеримента се състоеше в това, след тези два концерта присъстващите да научат много повече за връзките, ��тносителната тежест и т.н. на творчеството на Дебюси и Равел, отколкото биха научили, прочитайки ВСИЧКАТА критика върху двамата композитори."

"Най-добрата книга с музикална критика, която някога съм чел, е “Стравински” на Борис Шльоцер. Какво научих от нея, което не знаех преди?
Оценявам интелектуалната пълнота на Шльоцер и неговата изчерпателност. Очарован бях от едно изречение в книгата, което си спомням (приблизително): “Мелодията е най-неестественото нещо в музиката”, което ще рече, че е най-отдалечена от това, което композиторът намир�� ПО НАЧАЛО, съществуващо в готов вид в природата и което той може само да копира или пресъздаде. Затова в мелодията е коренът, началото, теста, и т.н.
Това е афоризъм, общо твърдение. На мен ми се струва безусловна истина."

"Всяко обобщение е като банков чек. Стойността му зависи от наличието на средства в сметката. Ако г-н Рокфелер напише чек за един милион долара, чекът може да е валиден. Ако аз напиша чек за един милион, това е шега, измама, няма никаква стойност. Ако някой ме вземе на сериозно, подписването на чека става престъпно деяние.

Същият принцип действа при чековете за знание. Ако Маркони каже нещо за ултракъсите вълни, думите му имат ЗНАЧЕНИЕ. Смисълът им може да бъде преценен от човек с ПОЗНАНИЯ в областта.
Не приемате чек от хора, които нямат препоръки. В литературата, “името” на писателя е неговата препоръка. След известно време той разполага с някакъв кредит. Може да е добър кредит, може да е като на покойния г-н Крюгер.
Езиковата обосновка на един банков чек е като тази на всеки друг чек.
Вашият чек, ако е валиден, в крайна сметка осигурява доставката на нещо, което желаете.
Едно абстрактно или общо твърдение е ВАЛИДНО, ако в крайна сметка отговаря на фактите."

"Добрата литература е просто език, зареден със значение до възможно най-висока степен."

"Рим започва своя възход с езика на Цезар, Овидий и Тацит, и упада с надпреварата в реторика, 'изказа, укриващ мисълта' на дипломатите, и прочие."

"Един народ, който свиква с мърлявост в писмеността си, изпуска юздите на собствената си държава и на своето благоденствие. И тази разпуснатост и безпорядност са далеч по-сложни и по-позорни от накъсан и объркан словоред.
Засегнати са взаимоотношенията на изказ и значение. Обърканият словоред може да се дължи на стремеж към искреност, и едно сложно построено изречение може да бъде сложно построен камуфлаж."

"Цялата човешка мъдрост не се съдържа в нито един език, и нито един език сам по себе си не е СПОСОБЕН да изрази всички форми и степени на човешко познание.
Това е доста неприятна на вкус доктрина. Но не мога да я пропусна.
Хората понякога развиват същински фанатизъм в защитата на идеи, "фиксирани" в езика им. Това са най-общо казано "предразсъдъците на нацията" (която и да е нация).
Различни климати и различна кръв произвеждат различни нужди, различни импулси, различни неохоти, различни пропорции между различни видове напъни и спирачки, различни строежи на гърлото, и всички тези оставят своите следи в езика и го правят повече или по-малко податлив на дадени видове общуване и оформяне на мисълта."

"...вниманието ще се съсредоточи, мисля, върху самото ПИСАНЕ, върху сюжета, историята, яснотата на изказа, но няма да бъде естествено привлечено към мелодичните похвати, към хармонизирането на думите, тяхното ЗВУЧЕНЕ и в крайна сметка тяхното значение, съчетано с мелодия."

"НЯКЪДЕ ТУК уплашеният читателят сяда на средата на пътя, изува си обущата и започва да нарежда, че “не е лингвист” или че просто е невъзможно да научи всички тези езици.
Трябва да се разделят читателите, желаещи да станат експерти, от читателите без такива стремления; и трябва да се разделят, тъй да се каже, тези, които искат да опознаят света, от онези, доволни да познават САМО МАЛКАТА ЧАСТ, КОЯТО TE САМИТЕ НАСЕЛЯВАТ."

"Предполагам, че някой с достатъчно литературна любознателност в крайна сметка ще прочете “Агамемнон” на Есхил, но ако сериозно обмисля драмата като изразно средство, ще забележи, че поезията се състои от ДУМИ, а драмата от хора, които се движат по сцена, служейки си с думи. Тоест, думите са само част от изразността на театъра и празнотата между думите, или тяхното несъвършенство, може да се компенсира от “движение на сцената”."

"Поех кормилото на моята критическа мисъл преди години, заявявайки, че Катул е в някои отношения по-добър поет от Сафо, не в мелопоеята, а в сбитостта на думите. Нямам представа дали това е истина. Човек трябва да подходи с непредубеденост.
Със своя снобизъм, ренесансът считал всяко старогръцко стихотворение за по-добро от КОЕТО И ДА Е латинско стихотворение. Най-интелигентният от латинистите на куатроченто, Базинио от Парма, провъзгласил различно гледище; той смятал, че не можеш да пишеш добри стихове на латински, без да познаваш старогръцката поезия. Това е, както виждате, съвсем различна мисъл. В полетата на латинските му писания още можете да видите откъсите от Омир, които ползвал, за да поддържа чувството си за мелодичност във форма.
Не вярвам, че има латински автор на измеримо разстояние от Омир. Съмнявам се, че Катул е по-долу от Сафо. Съмнявам се, че Проперций е дори на един милиметър по-долу от старогръцките му предшественици; Овидий е за нас съкровищница от похвати, които НА ДНЕШНО ВРЕМЕ не са запазени на старогръцки.
Овидий е неравен. Той е ясен. Стиховете му са бистри като проза. От гледна точка на стихосложение, бледнее пред Катул и Проперций."

"фанопоея, създаването на картинен образ върху ретината на ума"

"Европейската цивилизация, или, ако използваме тази омразна дума, "култура", може да си представим като една средновековна колона, по която протичат вълна след вълна класицизъм. Това не изчерпва историята, но за да я разберете, трябва да вземете предвид пластовете възприятия, натрупани с вековете, както и всичко запазило се в цялостен вид от античността до наши дни."

"Има три вида мелопоея; тоест, има стихове, създадени да бъдат – пяти, декламирани в напев, и изговаряни.
Колкото повече човек остарява, толкова повече започва да вярва в първия тип мелопоея."

"Не е важно кой крак на масата ще направите най-напред; важно е масата да има четири крака и да стои изправена, като я завършите."

"Липсата на компетентност ще си проличи в употребата на прекалено много думи.
Първият и най-прост тест, с който читателят може да провери дали даден автор е добър, е да потърси думи, лишени от истински смисъл; думи, които не допринасят нищо за значението, ИЛИ отвличат вниманието от НАЙ-важното в значението на текста."

"Казват, че Флобер научил Мопасан да пише. Когато Мопасан се връщал от разходка, Флобер го карал да опише някого, например някоя портиерка, покрай която и двамата ще минат при следващата им разходка, и да я опише така, че Флобер да я разпознае, тази портиерка, и да не може да я обърка с някоя друга портиерка."

"Родолфо Агрикола в едно издание, датиращо от хиляда петстотин и нещо, казва, че човек пише: ut doceat, ut moveat ut delectet, за да поучи, за да развълнува, за да донесе наслада.

Много лоша литературна критика съществува благодарение на това, че критиците не са разбрали кой от тези три мотива лежи в основата на дадено произведение.

Обратните процеси, които благочестивите учители от античността не са взели предвид, биха били: писателят пише, за да обърка, за да баламоса или заблуди, за да досади.

Читателят или слушателят има пълната свобода да остане пасивен и да се подложи на тези операции, ако така е избрал."

"Тайната на популярната проза е че една страница никога не съдържа повече, отколкото обикновеният читател може да излочи без КАКВОТО И ДА Е съсредоточаване на неговото по навик вяло внимание.

Казват, че Анатол Франс прекарвал много вре��е в търсенето на най-малко вероятния вариант, който да превърне най-изтърканите и най-банални журналистически фрази в нещо забележително.
Такъв вид търсене понякога наричаме “класицизъм”.
Възможно най-голямо разстояние разделя това търсене от склонността или напъна на английския стилист да измисли стил, различен от стила на всеки друг."

"ПЪРВАТА ФАЗА в развитието на всеки писател се състои в писането на нещо “като” нещо друго, което е чул или чел.
Повечето писатели никога не излизат от тази фаза."

"Киното като форма може и да е по-добро от сцената (от интелектуална гледна точка).
Един филм може по-добре да употреби 60 процента от всичкия съществуващ повествователен и драматичен материал. Всеки случай може да се разгледа спрямо собствените си заслуги.
Един тест, валиден във всички случаи, е “Могъл ли е този материал да се осъществи по-добре чрез други изразни средства?”
Profile Image for Natalie Hayner.
260 reviews
August 16, 2022
The girls are fightinggggg. Loving Pound’s cattiness… not loving how pretentious this was.
Profile Image for Kitty.
330 reviews18 followers
August 25, 2008
Pound loves to quote himself -- like Cocteau, "Etonnez-moi" -- surprise me -- is the order of the day to ensure that words are charged with meaning with logo-melo-phano-poetic roots growing deep underneath. (42: phanopoeia: throwing a visual image on the mind; Melopoeia: melodic invention; Charge words with sound (37). relationships, etymologies, etc.) The way to learn the music of verse is to listen to it. (56)
Language and thought -- spoken or written, is about articulating and communicating --
"Literature is news that STAYS news." (p. 29) As I explore the "sound" of poetry,
his reflections on the emotional correlations of sound and rhythm of speech are useful.
"Incompetence will show in the use of too many words". (63) (Think: The apparition of these faces in the crowd: Petals on a wet, black bough.: ) In our 21st century a good poem includes "clarity in making the stakes clear". Pound set the stage, expounding on one definition of beauty: aptness to purpose. (p. 64). His arrogance p. 81: Can you be interested in the writings of men whose general perceptions are below the average?"
Composition as "singing matter" (152): "It has been perceived that French verse went soggy and leaden, and that it tumefied when some literary lump was too dull to finger the lute; too inarticulate in the basic sense of the word. It is not a man's fingers that stop him playing an instrument, but his mind, his inability to grasp mentally the sixty or the twelve or 600 bits of a whole and to perceive their relations. The true imagination, whether visual or acoustic, holds a piece of music as a watchmaker would mentally grasp a watch..." (152) importance of DETAILS.. so each line FITS THE MUSIC. Lots of examples and the well known, short, treatise on prosody at end.
Profile Image for Nassos Kontonatsios.
59 reviews2 followers
July 19, 2021
[ ... ] Οι δύο μεγάλες παραδόσεις λυρικής ποίησης που μας αφορούν είναι: Ο κύκλος των Μελικών ποιητών και ο κύκλος της Προβηγκίας. Από την πρώτη πηγάζει ουσιαστικά όλη η ποίηση του Αρχαίου Κόσμου, από την δεύτερη, ουσισατικά όλη η σύγχρονη [ ... ]

[... ] Και ποιός θα κρίνει; Ο κριτικός, ο αποδέκτης, όσο ηλίθιος και αδαής και να είναι, πρέπει να κρίνει ο ίδιος. Η μόνη πραγματικά φαύλη κριτική είναι η ακαδημαϊκή κριτική εκείνων που κάνουν τη μεγάλη άρνηση, που αρνούνται να πουν τι σκέφτονται, αν πράγματι σκέφτονται, και που επαναλαμβάνουν τα τετριμμένα. Είναι παράσιτα και η προδοσία τους απέναντι στη μεγάλη τέχνη είναι τόσο μεγάλη όσο εκείνη του ψευτοκαλλιτέχνη απέναντι στην τέχνη της εποχής του [ ... ]

[ ... ] Μπορεί να φτάσουμε να πιστεύουμε πως εκείνο που έχει σημασία στην τέχνη είναι ένα είδος ενέργειας, κάτι σαν τον ηλεκτρισμό ή τη ραδιενέργεια, μια δύναμη που εμπνέει, συνδέει και ενοποιεί. Μια δύναμη όμοια με το νερό που αναβλύζει μέσα από αστραφτερή άμμο αναγκάζοντάς την να κινηθεί γρήγορα. Μπορείτε να φτιάξετε όποια εικόνα θέλετε [... ]

[ Ο Γκαίτε είναι ίσως ο μόνος από τους ποιητές που προσπάθησαν ανεπιτυχώς να γίνουν κολοσσοί ο οποίος δεν εκτρέφει επιζήμιες ευχαριστήσεις. Τα τραγούδια του είναι τόσο ωραία, τόσο απρόσιτα -εννοώ ότι είναι εξίσου καλά με τα τραγούδια του Χάινε και του Φον ντερ Φογκελβάιντε- μόνο που δεν εγκαταλείπει ποτέ τη βίγλα του. Μας έχουν κουράσει οι άνθρωποι που δεν μπρούν να πετάξουν από το κλαδί τους. Ο Βιργίλιος είναι ένας από αυτούς. Όλοι αυτοί οι συγγραφείς της ψευδοεποποιίας είναι άνθρωποι πάνω σε κλαδιά [ ... ]
Profile Image for Jennifer.
491 reviews
May 26, 2011
This little volume was meant as a guide to students and teachers for how to read literature, poems and novels, in order to, by extension, write literature. He puts in a few interesting exercises on how students should do peer critiques to weed out excess language. He also has compiled a meandering list of required reading for the serious reader. Mmm, I must not be a serious student of literature. Because I sure do enjoy contemporary dross now and again. I was thinking that reading this book might be an interesting foundation for the rest of my reading in Malaysia. In any case, I think I will just enjoy what I want to enjoy. Enlightenment through language? Eh, probably not. Some nice relief from the heat. Sure!
Profile Image for Max Nemtsov.
Author 171 books460 followers
March 21, 2016
Учебник литературы, близкий к идеальному, а не вот эта ваша вульгарная социология и антропология, приправленная агитпропом и пролеткультом. Паунд учит своих гипотетических студентов читать поэзию как источник литературы вообще (которая «гниет, если слишком удаляется от музыки») и немного касается романа, и этот виртуальный класс просто завораживает — а какие там задания! А какая мини-антология забытой английской поэзии! Он настолько бескомпромиссен и идиосинкратичен, что издавать его по-ру — предприятие заведомо провальное: здесь и преподаватели высшей школы очень не все поймут, о чем он толкует. Впрочем, Паунд сам говорит, что не для них это писано.
Profile Image for Nathalie.
64 reviews13 followers
January 14, 2008
'A people that grows accustomed to sloppy writing is a people in process of losing grip on its empire and on itself. And this looseness and blowsiness is not anything as simple and scandalous as abrupt and disordered syntax.
"It concerns the relation of expression to meaning. Abrupt and disordered syntax can be at times very honest, and an elaborately constructed sentence can be at times an elaborate camouflage.'
Ezra Pound in 'A B C of Reading
Profile Image for Deni.
380 reviews42 followers
October 27, 2016
Me reí bastante con el bueno de Ezra. La verdad es que el género manual le queda muy chico. Le agradecemos el tono y la intención pero tras leer esto solo reconfirmo que tengo que volver a los Cantos. Amé algunos de los poemas citados, investigaré a posteriori.
Profile Image for Krystal Tubbs.
22 reviews17 followers
February 28, 2016
I'm not sure I've ever read anything more pretentious. I had to hate read through the book because it was assigned for class, or I would've stopped reading.
Profile Image for Juanjo.
117 reviews7 followers
December 21, 2021
Mixed bag of academic knowledge filtered through a subjective lens based on Pound's preferences, reference lists, exercises of dissecting poems and some poetry analyzed by him. It's engaging as far as he finds the subject engaging, whatever he dismisses he does not offer any depth in: "Romans are just worse Greeks", "the Germans haven't written anything good"; a lot of "it's left up to the reader to see for themselves my opinion about X being better than Y", like claiming Ovid was a bigger influence for Dante than Virgil. Coincidentally, Ovid is praised by Pound quite a bit while mentioning Virgil as the lesser poet.

He tries to present a Canon for Poetry based on objectivity, which incidentally matches his tastes, and the languages he has studied. Probably better as a critic than a teacher, Pound had a very polished view of art which helped him in its work, but it's far from universal. Therefore the best segments on this book are the most vague as a whole, or the exercises which promote subjective reading such as: "read a poem and figure out which words are useless, which aren't", "look for poems that innovate on some level, that touch a subject on a way others don't"; but that's more akin to creative writing. The bottom line: read a lot and a lot and a lot more than you write, and study "the masters".
Profile Image for Sebastian Radu.
179 reviews323 followers
August 24, 2018
I don't know what I expected going into this, but it wasn't too enjoyable a read so after a while I just fast forwarded through it. There are a few good quotes you might get out of it, and there is some decent advice in it, but if you've ever done even a basic creative writing workshop or ever expressed any interest in writing, a lot of this won't be new to you. There are also quite a few examples and exercises for the reader / potential writer, but to me most of the advice boiled down to:

1. Read more.
2. Return to the masters often.
3. Study the techniques and the literary devices.
4. Explore foreign literature, in the original language if possible.
5. Don't waste time with mediocre writers.
6. Be efficient and precise in your writing.
7. Dissect what you read. Analyze it in depth.
8. Write a lot.
9. Read more.
Profile Image for Eoghan Ó Tuile.
19 reviews29 followers
October 12, 2022
Not what I was expecting at all. Found this in a charity shop for 50c & thought it might have some good tips on reading etc. What I came to discover, is that it is a book about the writing & reading of poetry, which was a pleasant surprise. The author Ezra Pound was a poet, and gives some great tips on language and reading poetry & literature.

Ezra comes off as a wise & well-read man. He gets straight to the point and gives great advice in relation to literature, poetry & how one better writes and reads in those domains. He gives attention to the utility of learning a new language & reading a text in said language, and the way in which it opens up new understandings that a translation cannot provide.

The book focuses on his theory of language in relation to phanopoeia, melopoeia, & logopoeia. All of which gave me a new perspecive on the relation between reading, thought, and the emotions. Not sure if I would recommend someone to buy a copy & read it, unless it is part of one's primary interest. If poetry & language intrigue you, give it a read.
Profile Image for Salva.
48 reviews
November 4, 2022

«  Les artistes sont les antennes de la race. »

Pound examine les principes de la doctrine et de sa pratique littéraire à travers des nombreux exemples cueillis du canon historique.
Son expérience et ses connaissances sont évidentes en raison des nombreux textes référencés, mais il fait aussi preuve de folie et d’un étude parfois superficiel.
Profile Image for Slow Reader.
113 reviews
March 13, 2020
Polemical and exhilarating. A great overflowing fount of literary appreciation best used, first, as a resource, and second, as a stimulant.
January 19, 2023
La primera mitad y es buena y de ahí se pone muy fome. Hace un recorrido súper masculino de la literatura en habla inglesa y siento que no explica bien ?? Tampoco lo leí muy concentrada.
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