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The Cantos

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,187 ratings  ·  136 reviews
The Cantos by Ezra Pound is a long, incomplete poem in 116 sections, each of which is a canto. Most of it was written between 1915 and 1962, although much of the early work was abandoned and the early cantos, as finally published, date from 1922 onwards. It is a book-length work, widely considered to be an intense and challenging read. The Cantos is generally considered on ...more
Paperback, 824 pages
Published June 17th 1996 by New Directions (first published 1970)
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Christian Willenbacher i have a new directions edition (simple black cover with "the cantos of ezra pound" in white, nothing else) that is strictly the cantos, no analysis…morei have a new directions edition (simple black cover with "the cantos of ezra pound" in white, nothing else) that is strictly the cantos, no analysis(less)

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  5,187 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Brian Michels
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this one on the train on my way home from work today - NOT!

Three decades ago I picked it up, finished nearly half, then was overwhelmed with his words and the strife of my then life.

Two decades ago I picked it up and nearly finished the thing until others' words got in the way of his words and I had to use my own words to defend against said words and got lost in the sway.

Rhythm, always rhythm.

One day ago I finished it, complete, replete and without any sleep, yet strength enough to keep
Peycho Kanev
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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 (thems ...more
Jul 23, 2012 marked it as to-read
Though Pound's Cantos are going onto the "to-poke-at-with-a-stick" shelf, I have actually read a number of the poems over the past few months, and some of them are staggeringly stunningly wind-and-sea-and-stone-coast-wrought Hellenic dreambeauties. These from the first 15th or so of the book that I have breached. Then some are incomprehensible limbos. Gass's essay on Pound in "Finding A Form", where he spends the first two pages deconstructing the Fate hidden in his name and the rest chalking up ...more
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Yet what need to say? ’Tis as human a little story as paper could well carry, in affect, as singsing so Salaman susuing to swittvitles while as unbluffingly blurtubruskblunt as an Esra? the cat, the cat’s meeter, the meeter’s cat’s wife, the meeter’s cat’s wife’s half better, the meeter’s cat’s wife’s half better’s meeter, and so back to our horses, for we also know, what we have perused from the pages of I Was A Gemral, that Showting up of Bulsklivism by ‘Schottenboum’, that Father Michael abo ...more
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is difficult to estimate the totality of effect of Pound's having been. We can say this much. Without Pound there is no Williams, no Olson, no Zukofsky--to name only the most obvious suspects. But we might as well say that without Pound there is no Joyce, no Eliot. Lewis is, natheless, as the tree, having never been (nor yet is he to be) seen as much, if seen. Gaudier? Forget it. Antheil? Well, yes, but to what extent? Thus, and as simply, may we owe the finer and distinct shapes of poetry, p ...more
B. P. Rinehart
"And If you say that this tale teaches...
a lesson, or that the Reverend Eliot
has found a more natural who think
you will
get through hell in a hurry...
" - opening lines of Canto XLVI

You will not find a better summary of all that modernist poetry had to offer than Ezra Pound's decades long collection of poetry, written with The Divine Comedy in mind, that he simply called The Cantos. It is one of the most voluminous, complex, ambitious, and extreme works of literature ever released.
Wesley Blixt
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
You want to reject Pound, as you want to reject Celine, for his politics, and for his role in the tragedy of the 20th century. But his is voice that gets inside you head and won't got way, and his incantations make your liver quiver. And you realize that there really is no Eliot or Hemingway or Williams or Ginsberg without him. No Beats. No Funk. And besides, the greatest tragedy he presided over was his own. Winter is icumin in, lude sing goddam . . . ...more
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Difficult, difficult read. It is also a work of genius. Demented genius at that. Imagine Pound living in an steel cage, writing under the glare of floodlights and open hostility. Certainly not a nice man, but also not an animal. There is no Emily Dickinson to be found here...
Mar 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: pomes-all-sizes
Ugh, if I could provide a rating of negative stars, this would be the one. Perhaps I'll finish it one day. In my death-bed senility I'll turn the last page and hauntingly tell that terrible grandchild, the one that's always torturing the cat or something, "Promise me one day you'll read this, it's a classic." I call this move the Reverse Rosebud. I'm spiteful like that; I've just committed to too many pages at this point.

I'm no great critic of poetry. I try not to overanalyze what I read that c
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-love
Miles Jochem (Editorial Intern, Tin House Books): You know you’re in for a doozy when the most famous literary appraisal of a book ends with the warning, “There are the Alps, / fools! Sit down and wait for them to crumble.” These lines, written by Basil Bunting, are about Ezra Pound’s Cantos, one of the pillars of Modernism. Pound ranks among the most controversial of writers, not least due to his open sympathy for anti-Semitic fascists. In fact, the US government charged him with treason in 194 ...more
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, maddening, exhausting--- but one of the masterpieces of modern lit. There are sections that thrill the heart to read aloud and cantos that drive you into a fury with obscurantism and posturing. Every time the word "usura" comes up (a fortiori when it's a personified Usura) you remember Pound's lunatic politics and his support of Mussolini and Hitler's invasion of Russia. And certainly the madness of Pound's later years is just waiting here. But these poems are great powerful thunderin ...more
Asha Kodah
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took me about a year and a half, on and off, to read, many sections multiple times, but damn this was brilliant.
Jacob Hurley
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Vile. I denounce every page of this disgusting "book" ...more
Scott Gates
Feb 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
I think The Cantos is a disaster. Maybe you could justify this mess by citing it as an early example of “found poetry” (i.e., large chunks of it is stuff that Pound cribbed directly from primary sources, but he chopped the lines to make it look like poetry). I confess: I didn’t make it past Canto 28. There is some beautiful writing, but at a ratio of about three lines per five cantos. So it was difficult mathematically to justify carrying on in the face of this deluge of obscurantism.

There is s
vi macdonald
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh the internal conflict of being both a Jew and a massive Ezra Pound fan...

Mercifully he kept his views to himself for most of the time here so it was all really easy to enjoy without any major detracting distractions (and, though not really relevant to the book at hand - he did express a deep regret for his "stupidity and ignorance" to none other than Allen "What-A-Babe" Ginsberg, which certainly makes me feel a little less concerned about endorsing this book). This book is without a doubt one
Oct 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
after a few glasses of wine i LOVE this book. i haven't found very many deeper meanings in pound's rambling.. i think its just his intoxication with words and their rhythms that make it fantastic ...more
Jorge Yacoman
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a very dense and complex book. Not the traditional poetry. I think it reflects the struggle of people to achieve dignity and how people have lost themselves to greed or vanity, how the weakest have been stomped, used and traded with all the lies, secrets, bureaucracy and manipulation from the powerful people. I think the use of Chinese, Greek, Latin, German, French, Spanish and other languages serve to show the universality of these voices that throughout history have threaded the world we ...more
Jul 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Tough going, but worth it. Despite its size, it's incomplete, trails off. Full of false starts, wrong paths, arrogance. But also great beauty. It's a gorgeous failure, and well worth exploring, much like life. ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Takes years to read these fully. It did pay off. For me, anyway.
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I could read this book again and again forever and still not completely get it, but it is one amazing book. Being fluent in 12 or 13 languages would help.
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Had I been introduced to the Cantos with a totally fresh mind free from prior influence, I would be some kind of strange hyper-fascist by the end of them.
Lee Foust
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You'll have to read this from the bottom up to get my chronological reactions to the poems and secteions as I read--enjoy!

P.S. Oh, and I wrote a little poem of my own after I finished:

A rube-ish college dropout
From I’d I’d I’d… Idahoey
After reading lotsa books
‘bout Sigismundo, ‘bout Leopoldo, ‘bout Chinesee
Histor-easy (written by crafty Jesuiti)
‘bout Adams pere and fille,
Determines Jews
Are the problem. Eschews banks
And decides a fat, fascist dictator will drain the swamp
But that dang Red Rooseve
Kyle Muntz
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Probably the most ambitious work of poetry ever, and interesting for so many reasons. Sections of this book are incredibly beautiful, timeless, and untouchable, paired with a bunch of fascinating intellectual moves and an attempt to bring together the history and mythology of everything, ever, in a single poetic work. Unfortunately, huge chunks (probably most of the book) are terrible, with a special mention going to a chunk near the center where Pound basically just lineates John Adam's letters ...more
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I finally read it through this year (every word, with the exception of some pieces of the "China" cantos), and will go back to reread a bunch of it soon. Really, it deserves 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 stars. It's necessary to read it in chunks: often a particularly opaque and kind of boring canto turns out to have a formal function in relation to the ones around it that gives it the status of a low-activity passage in a piece of music.

I'm with just about everybody else in preferring the "Pisans," but oth
Jul 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fascists and Poetry Lovers
Well, a fascist he may have been, but his poetry is daring, difficult and beautiful. His images remain the best ever written...with a line he could conjure such feelings, such reactions -- and not always pleasant: "a condom full of black beetles". His writing, nigh inaccessible to those not possessing an almost encylopedic knowledge of classical literature, chinese mythology, science, poetry, etc. is in some senses the ultimate expression of the elitist movement of high modernism...and that's wh ...more
BR Hischier
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I only give this five stars because Pound is dead. If he was alive, I'd ask him to stop publishing, but by all means to keep writing this mind-boggling work----it was clearly important to him in ways I can't fathom. On the other hand, it makes complete sense. There are moments of clarity that remind me of old Pound, but Old Pound spreads them out so far across the work that I forget why I'm still reading. But that's what reading is, though: lots of words and a few great, memorable moments that a ...more
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
unending discovery of almost anything that is formed in poetry... never to be fully understood
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So what if it doesn't cohere? When it's lovely, it's lovely. Parts are intensely moving. Demote the book, please. It's the magnum opus of an American eccentric, and should be read as such. ...more
Robert Riley
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The greatest poetic epic of the 20th century. Takes a lot of study, but worth every minute.
James Debruicker
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
I know. I KNOW. Pound's indefensible as a person. He was a fascist and an anti-Semite and completely fucking nuts. He's also been dead for a while so I don't feel bad about reading this (much like I'll finally watch Roman Polanski films once that fucker kicks the bucket).

The parts about how shitty World War I is are fantastic. The parts about myth are fantastic. Then Pound goes off on a tear about... I don't know... the gold standard, or something, and then the banks that run the world, and the
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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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