Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more ➡
Standard view
Full view
of .
Add note
Save to My Library
Sync to mobile
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Chinese Poetry and Erza Pound Imagism

Chinese Poetry and Erza Pound Imagism



|Views: 12,957|Likes:
Published by tatertot

More info:

Published by: tatertot on Jul 22, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, DOC, TXT or read online from Scribd
See More
See less





Chinese Imagism
When developing his ideas for Imagism, Ezra Pound found such inspiration in Chinese poetry that he declared, “It is possible that this century may find a new Greece in China.”
In1915, Pound published
, a translation of fifteen Chinese poems. Possessing no knowledgeof Chinese himself, he based his translations entirely upon the glosses and notes of ErnestFenollosa, an American scholar who was fascinated with the Chinese language. Later scholarshave both defended and shed doubt upon Pound’s translations. His inaccuracies are obvious andundeniable, but his apologists claim that he succeeded in capturing the spirit of Chinese poetry inhis translations. How many of Pound’s ideas about Chinese poetry were invented by himself,and how many can we trace back to original Chinese poetry and criticism? I will approach thisquestion first by examining Pound’s most famous Imagist poem, “At a Station in the Metro,” andone of his translations from
, “A Jewel Stairs’ Grievance,” using both Pound’s own perspectives on Imagism as well as early Chinese literary theory. And finally, I will examine a LiPo poem, “At Su Terrace Viewing the Past,” and discuss how applicable Pound’s Imagistconcepts and ideas about Chinese poetry actually are to an authentic and untranslated Chinese poem. (All three poems can be found in the appendix)One of the most striking aspects of Imagist poetry is its precise rendering of the details of real, concrete objects. Pound, in his own self-proclaimed doctrine, enumerates two principlesthat guide this approach to writing poetry:1.Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective.
To use absolutely no word that does not contribute the presentation.
 Pound scorned the affected and archaic diction, obscure abstractions and generalizations, andconvoluted grammatical structures of older poems. He wanted to scrape away “the crust of dead
 Literary Essays of Ezra Pound 
(New York, 1968), 215.
 Literary Essays of Ezra Pound 
, 3.
English, the sediment present in my own available vocabulary”
through a new economical useof language, in which sentences and words are pared down to leave only the essential and theconcrete. This new way of writing poetry embodied restraint, simplicity, and precision. Insteadof vague and abstruse abstractions, Imagist poetry yields the texture of experience in all itssensuous and tangible detail. “In a Station in the Metro” was initially a thirty line poem.Condensed and reduced to two lines, it became one of the most precise and accomplishedImagist poems ever written. Both lines are simple and straightforward in grammatical structure,consisting of two distinct images: faces in the metro and flower petals.Pound asserted that “the natural object is always the
so concreteimages should always be preferred to logical language or generalizations. He believed thatimages radiate with a fertile suggestiveness that is absent from abstract language. In “Chinese‘Lyric Criticism’ in the Six Dynasties,” Kang-i Sun Chang describes a similar concept found inChinese poetry. “Symbolic language,” as opposed to analytical language, “deals with sensualimpressions and their qualitative implication” and “dwell[s] on the most essential qualities of objects.”
Similarly, Lu Chi, in his
 Essay on Literature
, also speaks of the emotional power of exacting imagery: “every detail in high and low relief [the poet] seeks to perfect… Such precision must be wrought that it appeals to the heart as true.”
For Pound, this precision must contribute to the description of a luminous image, which“presents an intellectual and emotional
in an instant of time” (emphasis added).
A“complex” must convey a manifold array of contradictory and ambiguous emotions and ideas.All these notions converge and interact in the image to lead to “that flash of sudden
 Literary Essays of Ezra Pound 
, 193.
(Chicago: Modern Poetry Association, March 1913).
Kang-i Sun Chang, “Chinese Lyric Criticism in the Six Dynasties,” in
Theories of the Arts in China
, ed. SusanBush and Christian Murck (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 215.
Lu Chi,
 Essay on Literature
, trans. by Shih-Hsiang Chen (Portland, ME: Anthoensen Press, 1953), 208.
 Literary Essays of Ezra Pound 
, 4.2
In later developments of this idea, Pound labeled the image a “vortex,” whichis a “radiant node or cluster… from which, and through which, and into which, ideas areconstantly rushing.”
Similar notions of complex images exist in ancient Chinese literary theory. Lu Chi says,“Words, as they expand, become all-evocative.”
 A few well-selected words are endlesslyfertile. Liu Hsieh, in
The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons
, also emphasized theinterplay between numerous ideas within the concrete poetic image: “the Ancient Poets operatedon the principle of endless association of ideas. They lost themselves in the myriad of thingscompletely absorbed in the visual and auditory sensations.”
And according to Chang, “The poetic value of the simple image lies in its power to evoke endless associations regarding theessential qualities of the object in question, despite its brevity in presentation.” Pound sought touse the most minute and economical images to suggest the widest expanse of ideas. For bothPound and the ancient Chinese poets, a discrete image serves as the junction of multifariousfeelings, the vortex visited by flowing ideas. The simplicity and conciseness of the image beliesits incredible potential for complexity and the sweeping array of concepts contained within it.Consider the powerful and complex interplay of imagery in “In a Station of the Metro.”If we include the title as one of the lines of the poem, each line of the poem delineates a singleimage, laying out the whole poem in incredible simplicity. We move disjunctively from animage of machinery, to human beings, to nature. Though these images seem distinct andunrelated, the layout of the poem implicitly draws parallels between them. In what way do the
James F. Knapp,
 Ezra Pound 
(Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979), 76.
Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir 
(1960 reprint), 92.
Lu, 207.
Liu Hsieh,
The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons
, trans. by Vincent Yu-chung Shih (Hong Kong: ChineseUniversity Press, 1983), 478-479.3

Activity (14)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 hundred reads
1 thousand reads
Bediye Topal liked this
Crystalline B. liked this
aurorascribid liked this
Mher Ghazarian liked this
mushiekera liked this
Rainy Chan liked this
bodilbodil4791 liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->