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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.”1 In

1915, Pound published Cathay, a translation of fifteen Chinese poems. Possessing no knowledge

of Chinese himself, he based his translations entirely upon the glosses and notes of Ernest

Fenollosa, an American scholar who was fascinated with the Chinese language. Later scholars

have both defended and shed doubt upon Pound’s translations. His inaccuracies are obvious and

undeniable, but his apologists claim that he succeeded in capturing the spirit of Chinese poetry in

his 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 this

question first by examining Pound’s most famous Imagist poem, “At a Station in the Metro,” and

one of his translations from Cathay, “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 Li

Po poem, “At Su Terrace Viewing the Past,” and discuss how applicable Pound’s Imagist

concepts 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 principles

that guide this approach to writing poetry:

1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective.


2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute the presentation.2

Pound scorned the affected and archaic diction, obscure abstractions and generalizations, and

convoluted grammatical structures of older poems. He wanted to scrape away “the crust of dead
1
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (New York, 1968), 215.
2
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, 3.
English, the sediment present in my own available vocabulary”3 through a new economical use

of language, in which sentences and words are pared down to leave only the essential and the

concrete. This new way of writing poetry embodied restraint, simplicity, and precision. Instead

of vague and abstruse abstractions, Imagist poetry yields the texture of experience in all its

sensuous 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 accomplished

Imagist 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 adequate symbol,”4 so concrete

images should always be preferred to logical language or generalizations. He believed that

images 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 in

Chinese poetry. “Symbolic language,” as opposed to analytical language, “deals with sensual

impressions and their qualitative implication” and “dwell[s] on the most essential qualities of

objects.”5 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.”6

For Pound, this precision must contribute to the description of a luminous image, which

“presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time” (emphasis added).7 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
3
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, 193.
4
Poetry (Chicago: Modern Poetry Association, March 1913).
5
Kang-i Sun Chang, “Chinese Lyric Criticism in the Six Dynasties,” in Theories of the Arts in China, ed. Susan
Bush and Christian Murck (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 215.
6
Lu Chi, Essay on Literature, trans. by Shih-Hsiang Chen (Portland, ME: Anthoensen Press, 1953), 208.
7
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, 4.

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understanding.”8 In later developments of this idea, Pound labeled the image a “vortex,” which

is a “radiant node or cluster… from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are

constantly rushing.”9

Similar notions of complex images exist in ancient Chinese literary theory. Lu Chi says,

“Words, as they expand, become all-evocative.”10 A few well-selected words are endlessly

fertile. Liu Hsieh, in The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, also emphasized the

interplay between numerous ideas within the concrete poetic image: “the Ancient Poets operated

on the principle of endless association of ideas. They lost themselves in the myriad of things

completely absorbed in the visual and auditory sensations.”11 And according to Chang, “The

poetic value of the simple image lies in its power to evoke endless associations regarding the

essential qualities of the object in question, despite its brevity in presentation.” Pound sought to

use the most minute and economical images to suggest the widest expanse of ideas. For both

Pound and the ancient Chinese poets, a discrete image serves as the junction of multifarious

feelings, the vortex visited by flowing ideas. The simplicity and conciseness of the image belies

its 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 single

image, laying out the whole poem in incredible simplicity. We move disjunctively from an

image of machinery, to human beings, to nature. Though these images seem distinct and

unrelated, the layout of the poem implicitly draws parallels between them. In what way do the

8
James F. Knapp, Ezra Pound (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979), 76.
9
Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1960 reprint), 92.
10
Lu, 207.
11
Liu Hsieh, The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, trans. by Vincent Yu-chung Shih (Hong Kong: Chinese
University Press, 1983), 478-479.

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faces of people resemble the petals of flowers, and what does their position in the subway say

about these images?

The subterranean setting of this poem suggests something dark, suppressed, and secret.

The word “apparition,” which means ghosts, likens this underground site to Hades, even though

the modern technological apparatus of the metro contrasts sharply with the suggestion of an

alternate classical place. The black color of the flower’s bough reinforces the sense of death

connoted by Hades and the apparition. The apparitions and the soft petals of the flowers, which

are ethereal and almost spiritually immaterial, are mentioned in context of the solid and fearsome

mechanisms of a clamorous ironclad subway. The speaker discovers the stillness of diminutive

flowers in a fleeting moment amongst the speed of the colossal metro. All these contradictory

feelings of death and life, fragility and strength, and speed and stillness intersect in these simple

compressed images. Thus, the faces can suggest death, fragility, and beauty all at once.

Throughout each line of the poem, each image becomes smaller, from the metro to human beings

to flowers. Ironically, this increasingly microscopic focus leads to an expansive enlargement of

meaning and emotions.

The poem’s rhythm and form underscore the discreteness and individual force of each of

the images. In the last line, the triple stress on “wet, black bough” leaves us with a protracted

image that lingers long after the poem has concluded. In the first line, each stress takes place on

a noun word: apparition, faces, and crowd. Prepositional words are all unstressed. In addition,

the original typography of “In a Station of the Metro” featured large spaces to separate each

image (see appendix). Thus, not only does each line designate a distinct image, but each cluster

of words also denotes a smaller specific image. The result is an unfolding of images through

several “phases of perception.”12


12
Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971), 197.

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This impressionistic display of imagery closely resembles Chinese characters. Pound

was fascinated and influenced by Fenollosa’s The Chinese Character as a Medium for Poetry, in

which Fenollosa argued that the Chinese language’s uniqueness and highly poetic qualities lay in

the fact that it is ideographic. Later sinologists have pointed out that only a small proportion of

Chinese characters are strictly ideographic, with most being phonetic. However, Fenollosa’s

insight lies in the fact that each Chinese character, each syllable, carries a single distinct meaning

whereas a single syllable of English may be completely nonsensical. The original typographic

from of “In a Station of the Metro” resembles Chinese poetry if we view each cluster of words as

a Chinese character. In a Chinese poem, each noun usually carries one stress and prepositional

words are generally eliminated, which is the same effect Pound was trying to achieve in English

by using one stress for each noun and leaving the prepositions unstressed.

An important effect of this sequence of discrete images is a sense of timelessness. The

utter lack of verbs in “In a Station of the Metro” yields the impression of a moment caught in

time. As Kenner noted, “A verb is not a thing” (emphasis added),13 and thus its inclusion in a

poem would contradict Pound’s Imagist principle of “direct treatment of the ‘thing’.” In Chinese

poetry, the verb is often missing and must be inferred from the relationship between the set of

given poetic images. Conversely, traditional Western poetry is usually narrative, with time

progressing throughout the poem. But in Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” there is a sense of

simultaneity in which neither the metro, the faces, or the flower comes first or last. In Chinese

poetry, emphasis is often placed on description rather than narrative, just as Pound emphasized

“presentation” over action. Chinese poetry has been dubbed “pictorial” not simply because of

the illustrative ideographs of the Chinese language but due also to the descriptive quality of

13
Kenner, 224.

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many poems. Chinese poetry is like a frozen snapshot, in which transient phenomena are

glimpsed and arrested in time.

Lu Chi in particular theorizes upon the liberation of time and space in poetry. He says,

“In a sheet of paper is contained the Infinite, / And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless

panorama.”14 Thus, the poet collapses the time and space of infinity and an endless panorama

into a sheet of paper and an inch-sized heart. Regarding the poet, Lu Chi says, “Eternity he sees

in a twinkling / And the whole world he views in one glance.”15 Here, there is no distinction

between past and present or here and there, since all are unified and contained within the oneness

of a single twinkling or glance. This idea of the minute containing the whole brings us to another

important idea in Imagist and Chinese poetry: synecdoche.

Mentions of synecdoche, in which a part is substituted for the whole, is ubiquitous in Lu

Chi and Liu Hsieh’s writings. Lu Chi said, “all things are contained under the tip of [the poet’s]

brush.”16 Liu Hsieh speaks at length about how a few paired characters that describe only a few

minute qualities can recall a whole larger object. He says, “with ts’an-tz’u [describing the

uneven lengths of water plants] and wo-jo [describing the glossiness of mulberry trees], each

consisting of only two characters, the Ancient Poets have given us perfectly realistic descriptions

of things. In all these expressions, they have used a part to sum up the whole.”17

In the note accompanying his translation of Li Po’s “Jewel Stairs’ Grievance,” Pound

makes it clear that he wants the reader to extrapolate the whole from each minute detail given in

the poem. In this poem, a woman waits for her lover but he fails to arrive. Pound’s note reads,

“Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze

14
Lu, 207.
15
Lu, 206.
16
Lu, 207. The original sentence read, “all things become plastic under the tip…” Professor Chang suggested The
correction, “are contained,” during class.
17
Liu, 479.

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stockings, therefore a court lady.” In conclusion, “The poem is especially prized because she

utters no direct reproach.” Thus, the speaker’s yearning, loneliness, and disappointment are all

the more alluring due to their “oriental obliquity of reference.”18 The power of Pound’s images

lies in the subtlety of their suggestive power. Each image or detail, despite its minuteness,

contains within it the potential for an expansive and complex range of emotions.

Synecdoche is a subset of metonymy, which Chang sees as a poetic tool in which “the

self extends itself metonymically to embrace the outside world.” The other method of extending

the self “results from a metaphorical transposition of self and object [which] may be viewed as

one of ‘equivalence.’ In any case, this empathic union of personal feelings and the outside world

is precisely what is meant by the traditional Chinese formula ch’ing-ching chiao-jung.”19 Like

Chang, Pound emphasized the idea of a poetic “equation” to achieve connections between outer

visual images and inner abstract feelings. This empathy between the objective outside world and

subjective internal emotions is exactly what Pound tried to capture in his Imagist poetry. He was

“trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts

into a thing inward and subjective.”20 According to Knapp, “Pound was interested in how the

world can be known through images which fuse and focus the enormous complexities of external

object and internal emotion.”21 He wanted to represent the unseen array of complex emotions

and ideas through the simple seen objects in physical reality.

This relationship between the exterior and interior, and between man and nature, is

apparent in “At a Station of the Metro.” In fitting accordance with Chang’s principle of

metaphoric equivalence, the first and second lines of the poem can be viewed as one of Pound’s

poetic equations, “The apparition of these faces = Petals on a wet, black bough.” The alternation
18
Kenner, 202.
19
Chang, 216.
20
K. K. Ruthven, A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Personae (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 153.
21
69.

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between interior and exterior occurs through the switch from the subterranean metro station

inside to the flower outside, while the relationship between man and nature emerges through the

pairing of human faces with flower petals.

Liu Hsieh also valued the empathy of the external environment with the poet’s emotions:

“when objects in the physical world change, our minds are also affected… All things exert

influence on one another.”22 While standing by the Hao river, Chuang Tzu empathizes with the

fish in the water. This Taoist unity between man and nature imparts a sense of the oneness of all

things and affirms our ability to know through subjective experience. In “Jewel Stairs’

Grievance,” the lover feels her betrayed love dying away while nature empathizes in its state of

autumn, the season associated with the beginnings of death and extinction. The dew that soaks

the stairs and her stockings are nature’s water droplets, which sympathetically parallel her own

implied tears.

Thus far, I have only examined the basic concepts of Imagism using a Pound poem and

Pound’s translation of a Chinese poem. However, Pound’s “translations” are notorious for their

inaccuracies. Besides the obvious difficulties of translating poems without knowledge of the

native language, Pound also intentionally altered, embellished, and appended to the Chinese

poems. Some scholars defend Pound, asserting that, whereas many of Pound’s predecessors

translated Chinese poetry “into the overelaborate and sometimes precious diction of late

nineteenth-century verse,” Pound’s “mistakes were sometimes brilliantly intuitive of the qualities

of the Chinese originals.” 23 In fact, the Chinese version of “Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” may

actually be more Imagist than Pound’s translation. There are no pronouns in the Chinese version,

22
Liu, 477.
23
Knapp, 78.

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and thus, according to Wai-lim Yip, both “she” and “I” are possibilities as the pronoun. This

ambiguous indeterminacy is an open invitation for the reader to identify with the protagonist.24

Nevertheless, Pound’s translations are more his own creations than a faithful

interpretation of the originals. How does an actual Chinese poem match up to Imagist

principles? Pound believed that Li Po was “the greatest poet of China”25 and most of the poems

translated in Cathay were originally written by Li Po. The last item in the appendix, “At Su

Terrace Viewing the Past,” is yet another poem by Li Po, this time in its original Chinese. In this

poem, the speaker reflects upon Ku-su Terrace, a formerly splendid site that was overthrown in

472 B.C. A close examination of this Li Po poem will reveal the Imagist qualities of an original

Chinese composition.

Li Po’s choice of characters reflects the precision, detail, and impressionistic rendering of

the scene. Most of the characters are nouns or adjectives. All of the nouns used are concrete-

they consist of gardens, a terrace, a tree, gatherers, songs, a moon, a palace, and a lady. The only

noun that can be considered abstract is chun, or “spring”, and this word still describes a concrete

season or period of time rather than an vague idea. The first two lines of “At Su Terrace Viewing

the Past” consist solely of nouns and adjectives to establish a richly textured descriptive setting

for the poem. When translated into English, Watson had to add the articles and prepositions.

These extraneous words actually detract from the strictly impressionistic sensation of the poem.

In the Chinese version, every syllable is essential to the description. According Pound’s own

self-proclaimed principles of Imagist writing, Li Po “use[d] absolutely no word that does not

contribute the presentation.”

24
Wai-lim Yip, Ezra Pound’s Cathay (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 66-69.
25
“Exile’s Letter, from the Chinese of Rihaku (Li Po),” the April 1915 Poetry

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In the third and fourth lines of the poem, there are two verbs. However, one of them is a

“to be” verb that serves only to describe a concrete object. The other verb, “shine”, functions

more as an adjective describing the moon and modifying its relationship to the terrace than as a

verb relating a sequence of action. Translated into English, it becomes the past tense “shone”

because it is evoking the past rather than narrating present-tense events. The lack of action

words or recounting of narrative incidents results in an Imagist sensation of simultaneity or

timelessness.

The juxtaposition of old and new images lends the poem the complexity and nuance

achieved by Pound’s various juxtapositions in “In a Station of the Metro.” The three distinct

images in the first line all deal with time and its correlation with life and death. “Old gardens”

and “ruined terrace” suggest the death and desolation of a formerly resplendent palace. In

contrast to these images are the “willow trees new.” This image of youth and new life serves as a

transition to the next line, which describes a vibrant and vivacious spring, filled with animated

caltrop gatherers and clear songs. Contrary to the cheerful tone one would expect in describing

such lively images, the speaker describes the spring as “not excellent.” By translating these two

characters as “unbearable,” Watson helps the English reader interpret the meaning invested in Li

Po’s subtle and indirect words: the current joy of spring is too unbearable for the viewer due to

its tragic contrast with the devastation of the old gardens and ruined terrace. There are only

lingering traces of a once great place that is now wrecked and inert. The willow trees grow out

of the remains while the terrace continues to decay. New life has begun eclipsing and covering

over King Wu’s terrace in complete indifference. Soon, memories and traces of the old place

will be all but eliminated. Li Po’s poem is an attempt to give the terrace immortality. The acute

sensitivity to time in this poem is at once an acknowledgment of its power and an attempt to

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overcome it by freezing this scene or moment in time by inscribing it into the Chinese poetic

canon.

Line 3 of the poem says, “but now there is only the west river moon.”26 Though the first

two lines clearly describe the terrace’s present conditions, the “but now” of line 3 would only be

appropriate if the previous lines described the past. Thus, the speaker’s implication is that,

though he was describing the present, he was thinking about the past. Again, contradictory

notions of past and present enhance the complexity of the images in the first two lines.

The concluding image of line 3, “the west river moon,” evokes the Imagist sense of

timelessness. The moon that shines upon the present landscape is the same moon that also shone

upon the palace of King Wu in the past, thus providing transition between the third and forth

lines. The moon is a symbol of constancy- it is the “only” thing that remained the same- and it

serves as the focal point of the poet’s meditation. Contained within the moon are memories and

reflections of both the past and the present. With the moon we find Pound’s concept of the

“vortex,” in which a minute and distinct image contains and collapses such opposing notions as

past and present.

The synecdochic idea of the minute containing something larger and more complete is

present not only with the image of the moon but is found throughout the poem. This particular

terrace that serves as the subject for “At Su Terrace Viewing the Past” serves as a synecdoche for

King Fu-ch’a’s entire state of Wu, or King Fu-ch’a’s entire reign. Thus, the desolation of this

one palace symbolizes the extinction of his whole once-proud dominion. This reading is

supported by line 4 of the poem, which mentions King Wu’s palace. The shift from Ku-su

Terrace to King Wu’s palace means that, though the poem’s images fix upon the terrace, these

images are meant to address larger themes of the love and folly that destroyed an entire state.
26
Watson’s translation is “and now,” but zhi can be more scrupulously translated into “but”.

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Watson accompanies his translation with the note that “the king’s infatuation for Hsi-shih,

the ‘lady’ of the poem, weakened his state and led to its overthrow.” Though Watson’s

translation of the poem specified a “lady”, the Chinese version only made an abstruse reference

to a ren, or person, in the palace of King Wu. From this final and decisive word of the poem, the

reader is meant to gather that this person was a lady and the king’s lover, and from this

conclusion the reader recognizes Li Po’s allusion to the historical event. The subtle implications

of this allusion make the poem both a lament and a testament to love’s power. Though poets

usually depict love as a positive and generative force, love in Li Po’s poem is destructive and

fatal. Thus, both the beauty of love and the charm of the new willow tree in spring are

complicated by their tragic relationship to the fall of the state of Wu. Whereas the lady’s love

portended destruction, the spring makes the memory of the destruction all the more poignant.

Pound’s juxtapositions of outside and inside, technology and nature, and hardness and fragility

are all reminiscent of the ambiguity of feeling achieved by Li Po’s poem.

Thus, Li Po’s poem, read in Chinese, embodies the Imagist principles Ezra Pound thought

he had found in Chinese poetry. In both Chinese and Imagist poems, natural objected are infused

with implied emotions of the most complex and contradictory nature. Minute images connote

large themes, and man and nature share a metaphorical empathy. To produce a sense of

timelessness, emphasis is placed on description rather than narrative. Despite Pound’s general

ignorance regarding the Chinese language, he managed to discern the descriptive and concrete

power of traditional Chinese poetry.

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Appendix of Poems

In a Station of the Metro, by Ezra Pound


The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Jewel Stairs’ Grievance, by Li Po, translated by Ezra Pound, who also added the note
The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.

NOTE: Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of.
Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he
has no excuse on account of the weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely
whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she
utters no direct reproach.)

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Word for word gloss of At Su Terrace Viewing the Past
Title Su terrace view past
Line 1 old gardens ruined terrace tree willow new
(willow tree)

Line 2 caltrop gatherers clear songs not excellent spring


(unbearable)

Line 3 but now only is west river moon

Line 4 once shine Wu king palace in person


(previously) (shone) (King Wu's palace) (lady)

At Su Terrace Viewing the Past, translated by Burton Watson


(Written when the post visited the site of Ku-su Terrace, built by Fu-ch’a, king of Wu, just south
of the Yangtze; the king’s infatuation for Hsi-shih, the “lady” of the poem, weakened his state
and led to its overthrow in 472 B.C. by its rival, the state of Yueh.)

Old gardens, a ruined terrace, willow trees new;


caltrop gatherers, clear chant of songs, a spring unbearable
and now there is only the west river moon
that shone once on a lady in the palace of the king of Wu.

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The Poetry of Wang Wei, Pauline Yu

“underlying oneness of all things” and “sense of stasis and timelessness typical of the poet’s works” (Yu, 157)
“verbless evocations of the landscape” (Yu, 159)

“Wang Wei occasionally suggests the integrality of man and nature by means of a pathetic fallacy, the transference of human
emotions to natural objects. This is true of poem 101, “The Red Peony,” where the poet further indicates that his understanding
of the flower’s true feelings can penetrate its deceptively gay exterior.” (161)

Wang Wei = Omakitsu


Li Po = Rihaku
T’ao Ch’ien = To-Em-Mei
adj: 111111
noun: 1111111
verb: 1(to be)1(shine)
conjunction: 1
adverb: 111

 IMAGE/VORTEX
 images often contain the persona’s projected emotions. they are the receptacle of emotions
 “An image … is real because we know it directly.”27
 Jewel stairs: discrete images. “a woman whose lover has failed to appear at their rendezvous” “anger and
disappointment” “the creation of images which convey meanings of great complexity and power to move” complex
emotions of a particular situation
 “this capacity to evoke conflicting emotions, to communicate thought and feeling at the same moment”
 CONNECTION BETWEEN INNER/OUTER for Pound, subjective experience could yield objective truth
 subjectivity/objectivity
 frequently adopts the diction of the persona, subjective presentation of the persona’s point of view
 “objectivity of the world we touch” (Knapp, 60).
 “That is, he was interested in how we know the world beyond ourselves, how we see it, and how we sometimes
respond with feeling… the immense complexity of that moment’s perception… luminous detail” (64)
 interconnectedness/interrelatedness of all things, connection between external world and emotion. oneness of the
universe
 SWITCH TO TIME/SPACE?: connections between disparate words and images: “the single line is the unit of
composition; the Imagist principle, that a poem may build its effects out of things it sets before the mind’s eye by
naming them; and the lyrical principle, that of words or names, being ordered in time, are bound together and recalled
into each other’s presence by recurrent sounds.” (Kenner, 199) rectification of names, simultaneity, connection between
all. (TIME/SPACE) assonance, alliteration, internal rhyme.
 Fenollosa’s essay on “The Chinese Written Character As A Medium for Poetry”
 Fenollosa’s notion that “the Chinese ideograph is not primarily phonetic, that is preserves the concrete, pictorial
representation which had been its origin.” (Knapp, 75). So, whereas in English, the connection between the word
and meaning is arbitrary, in Chinese the connection is much more concrete and real. “Fenollosa saw concrete
metaphor as capable of communicating such rich and valid insight into the world because he believed it to be
firmly rooted in the very reality it would describe.” (Knapp, 76)
 “Had the world not been full of homologies, sympathies, and identities, thought would have been starved and
language chained to the obvious. There would have been no bridge whereby to cross from the minor truth of the
seen to the major truth of the unseen.”28
 Pound’s influence from Confucian rectification of names
 non-arbitrary signifier and signifiers: “The stubborn conviction… that symbols ought to correspond with things,
the ideal language…” (Kenner, 224)
 “supposition that the characters imitated not speech but Nature” (Kenner, 227)
 ideographs comprise about a tenth of the written language
 Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang

27
Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1960 reprint), 86.
28
The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, ed. Ezra Pound (1920; reprint San Francisco, n.d.), 21f

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 “The basis of lyricism is the poet’s inner-directed private experience. By definition, private experience is nothing
but a mental state experienced by an individual at a particular time and place [a snapshot].” (Chang, 215)
(TIME/SPACE)

 Bibliography
 James F. Knapp, Ezra Pound (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979)
 Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971)
 William Yip: Ezra Pound’s Cathay
 Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang:
 Lu Chi, “Essay on Literature”
 Liu Hsieh, “The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”
 Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984)
 Pauline Yu, The Poetry of Wang Wei

assonance of apparition and black: “The strong identificaiton of the faces withth epetals on a wet, black bough is enforced by the
selected epithet of ‘emotional apparition’ black, a qsuality that corresponds with, and merges into, the word apparition.” (Yip,
60)

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Pound’s imagism and Chinese literary theory

First go through two of Pound’s poems (one he wrote and one translation) to address the principles of Imagism and how they’re
similar to concepts in Chinese poetry. I really think that Pound’s imagism is very closely linked to Chinese poetry, even though
he was a bad translator. So look at one or two more Chinese poems in the original? At Su Terrace Viewing the Past, by Li Po.

----------------------------------------------------
 introduction
 T.S. Eliot, in 1928, called him “the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.”29
 a new Renaissance: “It is possible that this century may find a new Greece in China.”30
 first look at one of the earlier and most famous Imagist poem and a Pound translation of a Li Po poem, then look at a Li
Po and Wang Wei poem themselves to see if they embody these Imagist qualities or if Pound simply imposed his notion
of Imagism on Chinese poetry
 Cathay
 a volume of fifteen poems. the poems were all based on Fenollosa’s notes- literal, word-for-word glosses under
transcription of the original Chinese characters
 “More recent scholars, however, have begun to demonstrate the Pound’s ‘mistakes were sometimes brilliantly intuitive
of qualities in the Chinese originals which Fenollosa had obscured completely.” (Knapp, 78)
 “What Pound accomplished in Cathay was the application of imagist principles of composition to poems which had
previously been translated only into the overelaborate and sometimes precious diction of late nineteenth-century verse.”
(Knapp, 78)
 Pound felt himself an exile, a feeling that pervades Cathay
 PRECISE/DETAIL: concreteness, explicit rendering
 “1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that does not
contribute the presentation.”31
 “the crust of dead English, the sediment present in my own available vocabulary”32
 “They emphasize a concrete, economical use of language…” (Knapp, 58)
 “pare… language down to a spareness where image alone could accomplish what pages of discursive prose would only
blur and falsify.” (Knapp, 65) avoid generalizations, abstractness
 “texture of experience”
 “the natural object is always the adequate symbol”33
 Chang, lyric poetry: “Whereas analytical language [and, by extension, generalizing or abstracting language] is used to
present objective reality and emphasizes the referent…, symbolic language is the proper medium for representing the
aesthetic experience in that it focuses on the ‘quality’ of things. The former refers to such external distinctions as ‘this’
and ‘that,’ while the latter deals with sensual impressions and their qualitative implication.” (Chang, 215)
 Lu Ji, Essay on Lit: “every detail in high and low relief he seeks to perfect… such precision must be wrought that it
appeals to the heart as true” (Lu, 208)
 In a Station of the Metro: condensed from a 30-line poem, using only two complete images.
 IMAGE/VORTEX
 “An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.”34 (emphasis added)
 “His image was a luminous point… leading to that flash of sudden understanding” (Knapp, 76)
 images often contain the persona’s projected emotions. they are the receptacle of emotions
 concrete, visible images to communicate a complex array of invisible feelings and ideas.
 “The image… is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which , and
through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing.”35 “An image … is real because we know it directly.”36
 Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang: “This tendency to dwell on the most essential
qualities of objects is in keeping with an important device employed by Chinese lyric poets…- namely, the use of the
simple image… The poetic value of the simple image lies in its power to evoke endless associations regarding the

29
Introduction to Ezra Pound: Selected Poems, ed. T. S. Eliot (London, 1928).
30
Literary Essays, 215.
31
Literary Essays, 3.
32
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (New York, 1968), 193.
33
Poetry (March 1913)
34
Literary Essays, 4.
35
Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1960 reprint), 92.
36
Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1960 reprint), 86.
essential qualities of the object in question, despite its brevity in presentation.” Pound: image should be a vortex, with
ideas flowing through it, out of it, and into it- the junction of multivarious feelings and ideas
 Lu Chi, “Essay on Literature”: “The words, as they expand, become all-evocative”: the vortex!
 Liu Hsieh, “The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”: “the Ancient Poets operated on the principle of endless
association of ideas. They lost themselves in the myriad of things completely absorbed in the visual and auditory
sensations.” (Liu, 478-479)
 Jewel stairs: discrete images. “a woman whose lover has failed to appear at their rendezvous” “anger and disappointment”
“the creation of images which convey meanings of great complexity and power to move” complex emotions of a particular
situation
 In a Station:
 contrast between machines, people, and nature. 3 images, 3 lines. original typography of “In a Station of the Metro”
(Kenner, 197): “five phases of perception.” concrete images, clusters of perception- two images, 5 images. connected only
by prepositions which, if the poem were written in Chinese, would have been completely absent. double-meaning of
apparition.
 power of each image. stress on “petals”, triple stress on wet, black bough- ending with an extremely powerful image, which
lingers. the prepositional words are generally unstressed. The stresses take place on the noun words “apparition” “faces”
and “crowd.” Indeed, there are no verbs or adjectives to begin with in the first line.
 “All the attributes of the faces (‘beautiful’ etc.) are suppressed. What is left is the uncertain, shady, strongly emotional,
ethereal and incorporal quality of the moment in the word ‘apparition,’ a word that calls forth not one definite shad eof
meaning, but several levles of suggestiveness. I does not say whether the faces are beautiful, fearful, sunken, tragical, but I
suggests them all.” (Yip, 60)
 TIME/SPACE simultaneity
 liberation from the limits of time and space
 again: “1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that does not
contribute the presentation.”37 lack of verbs. “A verb is not a thing” (italics added, Kenner, 224). In Chinese poetry, the
verb is often missing and must be inferred from the relationship between the set of given poetic images (give an
example).
 “this capacity to evoke conflicting emotions, to communicate thought and feeling at the same moment”
 function of description in Chinese poetry: transient effects: since Chinese poems are more descriptive than narrative,
there isn’t a whole lot of passage of time throughout the poem, rather, it is a single impression or descriptive snapshot
of a moment in time that has become timeless. pictorial- that’s why Chinese poetry resembles painting. pictorial
ideographs, pictorial poems- lack of verbs, lack of movement through time.
 Lu Chi, “Essay on Literature”
 “Eternity he sees in a twinkling / And the whole world he views in one glance.” (Lu, 206): minute contains all. no
distinction between past and present, here and there. collapse of time and space. oneness of all things.
(METONYMY)
 “In a sheet of paper is contained the Infinite, / And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless panorama.”
collapse of space and time (METONYMY)
 In a Station of the Metro: a cluster of images, unconnected by verbs. caught in time. arrested in time. a glimpse. even
the title has no verbs- its only purpose is to situate.
 METONYMY
 metonym: A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated,
as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power.
 Lu Chi, “Essay on Literature”: “And all things [are contained] under the tip of his brush” (the “are contained” a
correction made by Professor Chang in class, Lu, 207): minute containing all
 Liu Hsieh, “The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”: “and with ts’an-tz’u [describing the uneven lengths of
water plants] and wo-jo [describing the glossiness of mulberry trees], each consisting of only two characters, the
Ancient Poets have given us perfectly realistic descriptions of things. In all these expressions, they have used a part to
sum up the whole.” (Liu, 479)
 Jewel Stairs
 From the minute, extrapolate the whole: Pound’s comments on “The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance”: “Jewel stairs,
therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court
lady…” (Knapp, 79): suggestive images.
 “‘the Jewel Stairs’ Grievance’ is ‘especially prized because she offers no direct reproach,’ so Cathay essays an
oriental obliquity of reference to what we are to understand as its true theme.” (202) implication, suggestiveness.
 CONNECTION BETWEEN INNER/OUTER for Pound, subjective experience could yield objective truth
 subjectivity

37
Literary Essays, 3.

18
 frequently adopts the diction of the persona, subjective presentation of the persona’s point of view
 “objectivity of the world we touch” (Knapp, 60).
 “trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward
and subjective.”38 “That is, he was interested in how we know the world beyond ourselves, how we see it, and how we
sometimes respond with feeling… the immense complexity of that moment’s perception… luminous detail” (64)
 “Pound was interested in how the world can be known through images which fuse and focus the enormous complexities
of external object and internal emotion.” (Knapp, 69)
 Use the seen to represent the unseen
 interconnectedness/interrelatedness of all things, connection between external world and emotion.
 oneness of the universe
 “the single line is the unit of composition; the Imagist principle, that a poem may build its effects out of things it sets
before the mind’s eye by naming them; and the lyrical principle, that of words or names, being ordered in time, are
bound together and recalled into each other’s presence by recurrent sounds.” (Kenner, 199) rectification of names,
simultaneity, connection between all. (TIME/SPACE)
 Fenollosa’s essay on “The Chinese Written Character As A Medium for Poetry”
 Fenollosa’s notion that “the Chinese ideograph is not primarily phonetic, that is preserves the concrete, pictorial
representation which had been its origin.” (Knapp, 75). So, whereas in English, the connection between the word
and meaning is arbitrary, in Chinese the connection is much more concrete and real. “Fenollosa saw concrete
metaphor as capable of communicating such rich and valid insight into the world because he believed it to be
firmly rooted in the very reality it would describe.” (Knapp, 76)
 “Had the world not been full of homologies, sympathies, and identities, thought would have been starved and
language chained to the obvious. There would have been no bridge whereby to cross from the minor truth of the
seen to the major truth of the unseen.”39
 Pound’s influence from Confucian rectification of names
 non-arbitrary signifier and signifiers: “The stubborn conviction… that symbols ought to correspond with things,
the ideal language…” (Kenner, 224)
 “supposition that the characters imitated not speech but Nature” (Kenner, 227)
 ideographs comprise about a tenth of the written language
 Liu Hsieh, “The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”: “when objects in the physical world change, our minds
are also affected… All things exert influence on one another.” (Liu, 477) oneness of all things.
 Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang
 “The basis of lyricism is the poet’s inner-directed private experience. By definition, private experience is nothing
but a mental state experienced by an individual at a particular time and place [a snapshot].” (Chang, 215)
(TIME/SPACE)
 “When Chuang Tzu said, ‘I know it by standing here beside the Hao,’ he was actually referring to a level of
knowledge similar to that of the aesthetic experience in which the self merges empathetically into the world of
external objects.” (Chang, 216) knowledge through subjective experience.
 Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang: how “symbolic language” of the “world of
imagination” in poetry works: “if the self extends itself metonymically to embrace the outside world, then the creative
process may be called, in Jakobson’s terminology, ‘contiguity.’ If, on the other hand, it results from a metaphorical
transposition of self and object, then it may be viewed as one of ‘equivalence.’ In any case, this empathic union of
personal feelings and the outside world is precisely what is meant by the traditional Chinese formula ch’ing-ching
chiao-jung.” (Chang, 216) metonym: just like Pound’s comments on “Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” metaphor and
equivalence = connections: just as Pound equates the petals on the flower with the faces from the subway stop-“It is a
simile with ‘like’ suppressed: Pound called it an equation” (emphasis added, Kenner, 185). (METONYMY)
 Jewel Stairs: connection between nature and man: “clear autumn” and “dying” assonance, internal rhyme, alliteration.
 At a Station: sense of transformation, from people to flowers- a connection between man and nature. we get smaller and
smaller- sense of a microscope- from station to people to flowers- looking within, inside the heart, to get to the without, the
flowers of nature. contrast between inner and outer: underground in the metro, outside in nature.
 Li Po’s “At Su Terrace Viewing the Past”
 Up till now, we’ve examined all these basic concepts of Imagism using only a Pound poem and Pound’s translation of a
Chinese poem, and Pound’s “translations” are notorious for being more of an original Pound poem rather than being a
faithful transmution of a traditional Chinese poem. How does a more scrupulously translated Chinese poem match up to
Pound’s Imagist criteria? while Ezra Pound’s translation of Jewel Stairs’ Grievance is, at best, questionable, even a more
faithful translation of Chinese poetry exhibits the Imagistic effects that Pound was looking for.

38
K. K. Ruthven, A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Personae (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 153.
39
The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, ed. Ezra Pound (1920; reprint San Francisco, n.d.), 21f

19
 Jewel Stair’s Grievance: no pronouns in the Chinese version. according to Wai-lim Yip, “she” or “I” can be used as the
pronoun. indeterminacy, invitation to the reader to identify with the protagonist, to be the protagonist. (Yip, 66-69)
 no verbs in the first two lines
 the new willow trees contrasted with the decaying age of the old gardens and ruined terrace. Sign of new life in a place that
has died.
 the new willow trees at the end of the first line connected with the spring at the end of the second line. the spring is
unbearable because of the tragic contrast between life and death.
 Bibliography
 James F. Knapp, Ezra Pound (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979)
 Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971)
 William Yip: Ezra Pound’s Cathay
 Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang:
 Lu Chi, “Essay on Literature”
 Liu Hsieh, “The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”
 Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984)
 Pauline Yu, The Poetry of Wang Wei

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Appendix of poems:

In a Station of the Metro (this first and most famous triumphant Imagist poem)
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough. (assonance of petal and wet, alliteration of black and bough)

assonance of apparition and black: “The strong identificaiton of the faces withth epetals on a wet, black bough is enforced by the
selected epithet of ‘emotional apparition’ black, a qsuality that corresponds with, and merges into, the word apparition.” (Yip,
60)

Jewel Stairs’ Grievance, by Li Po


The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew, (internal rhyme of quite and white, assonance of jewelled and dew)
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings, (dew again recalling jewelled)
And I let down the crystal curtain (alliteration of crystal curtain)
And watch the moon through the clear autumn. (alliteration of clear with crystal curtain)
(tr. Ezra Pound, who adds the following
NOTE: Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings,
therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of the
weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings. The
poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.)

At Su Terrace Viewing the Past, by Li Po


(Written when the post visited the site of Ku-su Terrace, built by Fu-ch’a, king of Wu, just south of the Yangtze; the king’s
infatuation for Hsi-shih, the “lady” of the poem, weakened his state and led to its overthrow in 472 B.C. by its rival, the state of
Yueh.)

Old gardens, a ruined terrace, willow trees new;


caltrop gatherers, clear chant of songs, a spring unbearable
and now there is only the west river moon
that shone once on a lady in the palace of the king of Wu.

Wang Wei = Omakitsu


Li Po = Rihaku
T’ao Ch’ien = To-Em-Mei
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

20
The Poetry of Wang Wei, Pauline Yu

“underlying oneness of all things” and “sense of stasis and timelessness typical of the poet’s works” (Yu, 157)
“verbless evocations of the landscape” (Yu, 159)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21
Pound’s imagism and Chinese literary theory
----------------------------------------------------
 introduction
 T.S. Eliot, in 1928, called him “the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.”40
 a new Renaissance: “It is possible that this century may find a new Greece in China.”41
 PRECISE/DETAIL: concreteness, explicit rendering
 “1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that does not
contribute the presentation.”42
 “the crust of dead English, the sediment present in my own available vocabulary”43
 “They emphasize a concrete, economical use of language…” (Knapp, 58)
 “pare… language down to a spareness where image alone could accomplish what pages of discursive prose would only
blur and falsify.” (Knapp, 65) avoid generalizations, abstractness
 “texture of experience”
 “the natural object is always the adequate symbol”44
 Chang, lyric poetry
 PRECISE/DETAIL: “Whereas analytical language [and, by extension, generalizing or abstracting language] is
used to present objective reality and emphasizes the referent…, symbolic language is the proper medium for
representing the aesthetic experience in that it focuses on the ‘quality’ of things. The former refers to such
external distinctions as ‘this’ and ‘that,’ while the latter deals with sensual impressions and their qualitative
implication.” (Chang, 215)

 “1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that does not
contribute the presentation.”45 lack of verbs. “A verb is not a thing” (italics added, Kenner, 224). In Chinese poetry, the
verb is often missing and must be inferred from the relationship between the set of given poetic images (give an
example).
 the Image
 “An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.”46
 “His image was a luminous point… leading to that flash of sudden understanding” (Knapp, 76)
 images often contain the persona’s projected emotions. they are the receptacle of emotions
 Both Pound and Chinese poets used concrete, visible images to communicate a complex array of invisible feelings and
ideas.
 for Pound, subjective experience could yield objective truth
 subjectivity
 frequently adopts the diction of the persona, subjective presentation of the persona’s point of view
 “objectivity of the world we touch” (Knapp, 60).
 “trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transofrms itself, or darts into a thing inward
and subjective.”47 “That is, he was interested in how we know the world beyond ourselves, how we see it, and how we
sometimes respond with feeling… the immense complexity of that moment’s perception… luminous detail” (64)
 “Pound was interested in how the world can be known through images which fuse and focus the enormous complexities
of external object and internal emotion.” (Knapp, 69)
 Use the seen to represent the unseen
 interconnectedness/interrelatedness of all things, connection between external world and emotion.
 Fenollosa’s essay on “The Chinese Written Character As A Medium for Poetry”
 Fenollosa’s notion that “the Chinese ideograph is not primarily phonetic, that is preserves the concrete, pictorial
representation which had been its origin.” (Knapp, 75). So, whereas in English, the connection between the word
and meaning is arbitrary, in Chinese the connection is much more concrete and real. “Fenollosa saw concrete
metaphor as capable of communicating such rich and valid insight into the world because he believed it to be
firmly rooted in the very reality it would describe.” (Knapp, 76)

40
Introduction to Ezra Pound: Selected Poems, ed. T. S. Eliot (London, 1928).
41
Literary Essays, 215.
42
Literary Essays, 3.
43
Literary Essays of Ezra Pound (New York, 1968), 193.
44
Poetry (March 1913)
45
Literary Essays, 3.
46
Literary Essays, 4.
47
K. K. Ruthven, A Guide to Ezra Pound’s Personae (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 153.
 “Had the world not been full of homologies, sympathies, and identities, thought would have been starved and
language chained to the obvious. There would have been no bridge whereby to cross from the minor truth of the
seen to the major truth of the unseen.”48
 Pound’s influence from Confucian rectification of names
 non-arbitrary signifier and signifiers: “The stubborn conviction… that symbols ought to correspond with things,
the ideal language…” (Kenner, 224)
 “supposition that the characters imitated not speech but Nature” (Kenner, 227)
 ideographs comprise about a tenth of the written language
 simultaneity
 liberation from the limits of time and space
 “this capacity to evoke conflicting emotions, to communicate thought and feeling at the same moment”
 function of description in Chinese poetry: transient effects: since Chinese poems are more descriptive than narrative,
there isn’t a whole lot of passage of time throughout the poem, rather, it is a single impression or descriptive snapshot
of a moment in time that has become timeless. pictorial- that’s why Chinese poetry resembles painting. pictorial
ideographs, pictorial poems- lack of verbs, lack of movement through time.
 Cathay
 a volume of fifteen poems. the poems were all based on Fenollosa’s notes- literal, word-for-word glosses under
transcription of the original Chinese characters
 “More recent scholars, however, have begun to demonstrate the Pound’s ‘mistakes were sometimes brilliantly intuitive
of qualities in the Chinese orignals which Fenollosa had obscured completely.” (Knapp, 78)
 “What Pound accomplished in Cathay was the application of imagist principles of composition to poems which had
previously been translated only into the overelaborate and sometimes precious diction of late nineteenth-century verse.”
(Knapp, 78)
 Pound felt himself an exile, a feeling that pervades Cathay
 Bibliography
 James F. Knapp, Ezra Pound (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979)
 Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971)
 William Yip: Ezra Pound’s Cathay
 the Chinese literary theory thing
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cathay:
comment on “The Beautiful Toilet” (Knapp, 78-79)
comment on “The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” (Knapp, 79)
comment on “Separation on the River Kiang” (Knapp, 80)
comment on war poems: “Lament of the Frontier Guard,” “Song of the Bowmen of Shu” (Knapp, 81-82, 86)
comment on “Taking Leave of a Friend” (Knapp, 83)
comment on “Exile’s Letter,” by Li Po (Knapp, 82-84)
comment on “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” (Knapp, 84)
comment on “The Unmoving Cloud,” by Tao Chien (Knapp, 84-85)
comment on “The Beautiful Toilet” (Kenner, 193)
comment on epigraph to “Four Poems of Departure” (Kenner, 200)
comment on “Separation on the River Kiang” (Kenner, 204)
This is ridiculous. Look at the index.

Imagist poems:
comment on “In a Station of the Metro” (Kenner, 184)

Wang Wei = Omakitsu


Li Po = Rihaku
T’ao Ch’ien = To-Em-Mei

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Jewel Stairs’ Grievance
 METONYM: From the minute, extrapolate the whole: Pound’s comments on “The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance”: “Jewel
stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court
lady…” (Knapp, 79): suggestive images.
 In a Station of the Metro

48
The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, ed. Ezra Pound (1920; reprint San Francisco, n.d.), 21f

23
 original typography of “In a Station of the Metro” (Kenner, 197): “five phases of perception.” concrete images,
unconnected by verbs.
 “‘the Jewel Stairs’ Grievance’ is ‘especially prized because she offers no direct reproach,’ so Cathay essays an oriental
obliquity of reference to what we are to understand as its true theme.” (202)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Appendix of poems:

In a Station of the Metro


The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Jewel Stairs’ Grievance


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
misc:
“the single line is the unit of composition; the Imagist principle, that a poem may build its effects out of things it sets before the
mind’s eye by naming them; and the lyrical principle, that of words or names, being ordered in time, are bound together and
recalled into each other’s presence by recurrent sounds.” (Kenner, 199)

metonym: A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in
the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chinese “Lyric Criticism” in the Six Dynasties, Kang-i Sun Chang:

CONNECTION BETWEEN INNER/OUTER, TIME/SPACE: “The basis of lyricism is the poet’s inner-directed private
experience. By definition, private experience is nothing but a mental state experienced by an individual at a particular time and
place [a snapshot].” (Chang, 215)

METONYM, METAPHOR/EQUIVALENCE: how “symbolic language” of the “world of imagination” in poetry works: “if the
self extends itself metonymically to embrace the outside world, then the creative process may be called, in Jakobson’s
terminology, ‘contiguity.’ If, on the other hand, it results from a metaphorical transposition of self and object, then it may be
viewed as one of ‘equivalence.’ In any case, this empathic union of personal feelings and the outside world is precisely what is
meant by the traditional Chinese formula ch’ing-ching chiao-jung.” (Chang, 216) metonym: just like Pound’s comments on
“Jewel Stairs’ Grievance”!! metaphor and equivalence: just as Pound equates the petals on the flower with the faces from the
subway stop- he even uses the word “equation”!!!

CONNECTION BETWEEN INNER/OUTER: “When Chuang Tzu said, ‘I know it by standing here beside the Hao,’ he was
actually referring to a level of knowledge similar to that of the aesthetic experience in which the self merges empathetically into
the world of external objects.” (Chang, 216) knowledge through subjective experience.

IMAGE/VORTEX: “This tendency to dwell on the most essential qualities of objects is in keeping with an important device
employed by Chinese lyric poets…- namely, the use of the simple image… The poetic value of the simple image lies in its power
to evoke endless associations regarding the essential qualities of the object in question, despite its brevity in presentation.”
Pound: image should be a vortex, with ideas flowing through it, out of it, and into it- the junction of multivarious feelings and
ideas

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lu Chi, “Essay on Literature”
METONYMY, TIME/SPACE: “Eternity he sees in a twinkling / And the whole world he views in one glance.” (Lu, 206): minute
contains all. no distinction between past and present, here and there. collapse of time and space. oneness of all things.

METONYMY: “And all things [are contained] under the tip of his brush” (the “are contained” a correction made by Professor
Chang in class, Lu, 207): minute containing all

METONYMY, TIME/SPACE: “In a sheet of paper is contained the Infinite, / And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless
panorama.” collapse of space and time

VORTEX/IMAGE: “The words, as they expand, become all-evocative”: the vortex!

24
PRECISION/DETAIL: “every detail in high and low relief he seeks to perfect… such precision must be wrought that it appeals to
the heart as true” (Lu, 208)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Liu Hsieh, “The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”
ONENESS, CONNECTION BETWEEN OUTER AND INNER: “when objects in the physical world change, our minds are also
affected… All things exert influence on one another.” (Liu, 477)

VORTEX/IMAGE: “the Ancient Poets operated on the principle of endless association of ideas. They lost themselves in the
myriad of things completely absorbed in the visual and auditory sensations.” (Liu, 478-479)

METONYMY: “and with ts’an-tz’u [describing the uneven lengths of water plants] and wo-jo [describing the glossiness of
mulberry trees], each consisting of only two characters, the Ancient Poets have given us perfectly realistic descriptions of things.
In all these expressions, they have used a part to sum up the whole.” (Liu, 479)

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The Poetry of Wang Wei, Pauline Yu

“underlying oneness of all things” and “sense of stasis and timelessness typical of the poet’s works” (Yu, 157)
“verbless evocations of the landscape” (Yu, 159)

NEED TO GET THE REST OF THIS BOOK SO I CAN LOOK AT POEM 95


CCL, Stacks PL2676 A6 1980

poem23: as if the sky were dawning for king and not the other way around
whit pure- we expecty images of clouds

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