I was rereading Mary Oliver’s The Poetry Handbook yesterday. Saw this poem by Ezra Pound. Never fails to render me speechless.

Ezra Pound

O generation of the thoroughly smug
          and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
          and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
          and do not even own clothing.

September’s just round the corner now, and my dear friend K., lovely girl, suddenly speaks of butterflies and August. Oh, Li Po. What would my life, our lives, have been like without your words? We mere mortals, sometimes poets, our hearts on our sleeves, gently mad, girls whose eyelashes flutter at the littlest provocation?

The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter
Li Po
Translated by Ezra Pound

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

Searching for an old book by Ezra Pound, the one with his earlier, shorter works. I think I lent it to an old love once, from way back.


A quick search in my bookshelf reveals that it’s one of the many things I lost to a relationship gone awry. Why why why.


Pound was one of the many reasons why I fell in love with poetry. A man who likes to read is one of the many reasons why I fall in love.


When Pound got off the train that day at La Concorde, he saw all these beautiful faces. He wrote a thirty-line poem. Destroyed it. Six months later, he wrote another one. Wasn’t satisfied by it. A year later: this poem.

It changed my life.

In a Station of the Metro
Ezra Pound

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