Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro

Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro

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Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro

Before this week, I had never read any poetry by Ezra Pound. I noticed immediately that many of the poems are very short. "In a Station of the Metro," for example, is two lines. In the essay "Imagism," the second rule of imagistes is said to be "to use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation." I think this rule helps explain why some of Pound's poems are so short. Obeying the second rule of imagistes will be harder the longer the poem is. This rule, however, does not seem to me a rule of imagistes alone, but of most poets from all eras. I don't think many poets could be found who would say that they try to use superfluous words. Just because a poem is longer than a few lines doesn't mean the poet is being long-winded. I think the vast majority of poets would say that they only use necessary words in their poetry. Of course it could also be said that words that seem superfluous do actually "contribute to the presentation." I have a hard time with letting Pound claim this rule as one of the imagistes only.

     Besides it's length, "In a Station of the Metro" was a poem I read with interest because it is on the syllabus as one of the poems to read carefully. I thought it strange that I was supposed to pay attention to this poem. Truly, it initially struck me as the kind of poem that I tried to write in elementary school. Not that I ever wrote anything interesting, but the shortness of the poem and the pairing of two very different images was pretty much the basis of my poetry as a kid. I thought randomness made poems deep.

     The title of this poem is very important as it places the reader in the metro station. While titles of poems and books are always important, this poem would be quite lost without it's title. The title lets us know that "the apparition of these faces in the crowd" takes place in the metro station, not the stadium or the shopping mall or any other crowded place. By placing the reader with the title, the poem lets the reader know that the first image of the poem, the "faces in the crowd," is something that belongs to the location of the speaker.

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The second image, however, would not be in the same location. Rather, the "petals on a wet, black bough" would be outside, perhaps after a rain or in the morning dew.

     The first thought I had about the pairing of these images is the comparison between the hustle and bustle of human lives, specifically at the metro, and the calmness of wet nature. Reviewers of this poem note that because the metro in underground, the crowd of people is like crowds of people in Hades or the underworld. In this case, the wet bough is certainly not native to the location. Many reviewers also focus on the relationship between Pound and Yeats, but most of the things written on this were confusing to me. While Pound's poetry seemed strange to me at the beginning of the week, I am interested to learn more about it.


 Works Consulted

A Major Minor: Ezra Pound's Poetry by Donald A Lyons. New Criterion v 17, nlO (June, 1999).

"Concealing the debt": a note on Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" by Sumanyu Satpathy. English Language Notes v32, 113 (March, 1995).

An American Poetry Sampler by Stormy Stripe. Biblio (April, 1998).
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