Ezra Pound on Language in Poetry

Language in Poetry

by Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound

3 Principles of Imagism

  1. Direct treatment of the "thing" whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.
  1. Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work.
  2. Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.
  3. Don't use such an expression as "dim lands of peace." It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer's not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol.
  4. Go in fear of abstractions. Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose.
  5. What the expert is tired of today the public will be tired of tomorrow.
  6. Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it.
  7. Use either no ornament or good ornament.
  8. Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably in a foreign language, so that the meaning of the words may be less likely to divert his attention from the movement.
  9. It is not necessary that a poem should rely on its music, but if it does rely on its music that music must be such as will delight the expert.
  10. Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint and all the minutiae of his craft.
  11. Don't imagine that a thing will "go" in verse just because it's too dull to go in prose.


from Ezra Pound "A Retrospect," in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, © 1918, 1920, 1935 by Ezra Pound. Reprinted by New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Ezra Pound Reading Canto LXXXI