Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Good Letter

Ezra Pound to Harriet Monroe
London, 22 October 1912

Dear Harriet Monroe:

…Can't you see that until someone is honest we get nothing clear. The good work is obscured, hidden in the bad. I go about this London hunting for the real. I find paper after paper, person after person, mildly affirming the opinion of someone who hasn't cared enough about the art to tell what they actually believe.

…It isn't as if I were set in a groove. I read any number of masters and I recognize any number of kinds of excellence. But I'm sick to loathing of people who don't care for master work. Who set out as artists with no intention of producing it. Who make no effort toward the best. Who are content with publicity and the praise of reviewers.

I think the worst betrayal you could make of American poetry is to pretend for a moment that you are content with a parochial standard.

…Good art can't possibly be palatable all at once. You can't possibly pat all the semi-defunct on the head & be sincere....When I say a thing is good I mean I can read it and enjoy it & do so without fear that it will harm my style (god knows I have none in prose), sap my energies or blunt my perception of to Kalon [the beautiful]. I can find little contemporary work (some in france) which does not seem to me the worst possible stuff for a young poet to fill his or her mind with.

Great god. If a man writes six GOOD lines he is immortal, isn't that worth trying for. Isn't it worth while having one critic left who won't say a thing is good until he is ready to stake his whole position on the decision.


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