How To Properly Read Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro
So I've been thinking about In a Station of the Metro on and off for since the 90s. Recently, I've started composing music and I've revisited the poem because of the ModPo Coursera class I'm taking. I've also been re-reading Ezra Pound’s Imagist Manifesto. Only now does it dawn on me how to properly read the poem.
from Ezra Pound's Imagist Manifesto
I. Direct treatment of the “thing," whether subjective or objective.
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
[Don’t bother with Amy Lowell’s version of the manifesto; it ignores it’s first tenent “To use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.” By this, I mean, it goes on for years.]
Pound is writing in 4/4 time with measures. The measure breaks are why he had spaces in the original text.
The first THE is a grace note. CROWD, PETALS, and BOUGH are half and whole notes to denote their importance.
In keeping with the Imagist Manifesto, this poem is dealing directly with the Paris subway of his time.
The next time you visit a subway, stand on a platform sometime--maybe 15 minutes--and watch the people. Don't follow them individually; watch them as a whole. Perhaps, you'll visit a subway that has good lighting. Perhaps, you'll be on a platform with terrible lighting.
We're lucky these days that--overall--transportation is better maintained than 100 years ago. What must that have been like in the dank tunnels of pre-WWI Paris?
Back to that bough... such a dulcet word and yet wet and black as if decaying... Personally, I imagine that's what that subway must have been like. The beautify of French design (the print, the architecture, the art, the wonderful lines throughout) but submerged in an unventilated, humid, dark network of "branches" stretching forth.
What would it have been like as a person? As a commuter to ride it every day as a necessary part of life? How much joy would there be on their faces? At what point would it wear them down? I do my best to avoid riding subways anymore. After years of living like a mole person, it gets to you. In subway trains people look beaten down as they wait to climb back into the sun. It seems to me to make sense then that those French riders appeared ghostly in the darkness.