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ABC of Reading

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,544 ratings  ·  114 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 210 pages
Published January 17th 1960 by New Directions (first published 1934)
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 ·  1,544 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: barometers and wind-gauges
Recommended to Mariel by: pexa et hirsuta
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.

Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Melissa by: Andy, Rick
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetshere, crit
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 Cra
eric j
Mar 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: criticism
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 is VERY important to know Dante and Cavalcanti...English poetry after Browning is a limp, hazy deca
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-criticism
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
Dec 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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
James Henderson
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 pe ...more
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: critical-essays
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. ...more
Nov 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 -
Oct 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 doe ...more
May 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 migh ...more
'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
Sebastian Radu
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
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. Rea
Slow Reader
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Polemical and exhilarating. A great overflowing fount of literary appreciation best used, first, as a resource, and second, as a stimulant.
Nov 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: how-to-books
Here follows a list of the quotable parts, for the benefit of someone who wants to get the gist of this book without reading it:

"Literature is language charged with meaning. Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree."

"Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear. Language is the main means of human communication. If an animal's nervous system does not transmit sensations and stimuli, the anima
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
It is perhaps the ellipsis of things thought through and taken for granted that lends Pound's writings about writing their didactic tone. It also tends to leave me wanting more-- not necessarily in a good way, because I have come to realize that they are not being hidden in some other book (unless one counts The Cantos, where it all is, in some form or another), they simply haven't been written down. In some ways, this is self-denigration rather than simple belligerence: Pound would rather we go ...more
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I moved halfway across the country (with ~2000 books!), so I'm a little behind on my reading. I jumped back into the fray with the greatest poetic mind of the last Century. Pity he was a fascist...

This is Ezra Pound's textbook/manifesto for reading poetry. He attempts to give the reader a foundation to work from, and it's really fantastic. His vitriol against Milton is amazing, and he introduced me to several poets I didn't know (and made me reconsider my feelings towards Donne).

The glories of H
J. Alfred
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
The arrogance for which Shapiro (and many others) excoriate Pound is present from the dedication: "The book is not addressed to those who have arrived at full knowledge of the subjects without knowing the facts[.]" (There's no period in Pound's text.) Pound claims that this volume is meant as a textbook. I can't believe it was ever used in that way, or indeed was ever intended that way-- it's part of Pound's lifelong mind games with the rest of the civilized world.
The tone is sort of uniform th
Hális Alves
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: books
I won't compile all the interesting (or not) aspects that made the ABC of Reading a pertinent book. I'd rather say this, and only this: Pound is acid, truthful and well-versed in his several aphorisms, many of which made me close the book and dwell a bit further in what he had just said. He clearly knows his business and gives us fair bits of advice, the most powerful being his approximation of poetry to the music, in pretty much all of its elements. I personally believe that that is beautiful a ...more
Adrian Alvarez
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ezra Pound, you flawed and sassy bitch, I love you.

He's purposely obscure, obstinate, opinionated and not someone you can really ignore. Oh, I rolled my eyes plenty reading this but when you write one of the most significant poetic works of the 20th century I suppose you're afforded a strongly flavored personality. That isn't to say he could do no wrong - the man rooted for Mussolini - but he is an artist I have to reckon with, flaws and all.

The writing style of this book is flamboyant and effec
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
If Hitler was your Highschool English teacher, his class would be a bit like this book, which suprisingly, works amazingly well. My synopsis of some of the more distinguishing points:
'If you can't fluently speak English, German, French, Latin, Greek and Chinese you shouldn't even be considered literate,'

'Unless you've read every work by Virgil, Ovid, Homer, Chaucer, Shakesphere, etc. and have produced notable works of your own, you are not fit to even so much as critique a book,'

'I'd go gay for
Mike Lindgren
May 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This classic work of literary criticism was very amusing to me, with its draconian pronouncements and caustic contempt for the sub-literate and sloppy. Pound has very strong likes and dislikes, and while his enthusiasms are often eccentric (Walter Savage Landor? Fitzgerald's translation of Rubaiyat?), the energy and certainty with which he trumpets them are refreshing. There's a critical worldview in there somewhere, albeit one based on aphorism and epigram rather than systematic analysis. ...more
Apr 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, essential
I wish this book was taught to all high school students. Pound walks the reader through the critical process and teaches the fundamentals of accessing difficult texts. If only I had read this when I was younger--it would have saved me so much time.
José Gouveia
Nov 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book! I'm not a big fan of Pound's very dense work of poetry, but these essays explain his philosophies on poetics on several levels and offer points to back up what he is saying from a cultural and language perspective. This book greatly improved my own sensibilities. ...more
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thesis
he really is a shit in this one. but a smart shit.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, non-fiction
Pound wants you to be on fire for poetry as much as he is, if he were a professor at university he'd be the one who would have extremely interesting and tiring lectures, followed by ridiculously hard exams ('Yes, we did not have that directly in the lectures, but I expect you to work on this in your free time! It would have easily appeared to you if you would have an iota of interest in your chosen field!'), and if you would fail he would be personally offended. His style is rambling and aggress ...more
Nicholas Zacharewicz
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Despite being from the 1930s, a few points of Pound's literary sensibilities really resonated with me. In particular, his regard for Chaucer as a more accomplished writer than Shakespeare often had me nodding along. Despite this preference for the older, more challenging author, Pound's own writing is not terribly difficult to follow.

If you're looking for a strongly stated perspective on literature and a rundown of a few major writers in English and their influences, then take the time to read
Nico Battersby
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a lover of literature, but have never cared for poetry. Through use of history, etymology and aesthetics the author has given me a deeper appreciation for poetry, language and communication in general.

I didn't care for most of the poetry he references in this book, but everything else is gold.
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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

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“And the good writer chooses his words for their 'meaning', but that meaning is not a a set, cut-off thing like the move of knight or pawn on a chess-board. It comes up with roots, with associations, with how and where the word is familiarly used, or where it has been used brilliantly or memorably.” 31 likes
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