Paris Metro. Photo Copyright L.Apichella
Ezra Pound Evening
Wednesday 6 July, 8pm
The Poetry Library
Last night was an evening dedicated to the imagist poet Ezra Pound. My expectation had been that we would hear a talk on his work, perhaps listen to a few of his poems, but what actually happened was exciting in a different way; an evening of poetry inspired by Pound’s.
Brtish poets Keston Sutherland and Tim Atkins briefly discussed the importance of Pound in contemporary poetry but the evidence was in the reading of their own, progressive work. Sutherland opened proceedings by explaining he would rather ‘channel Pound rather than answer him’.
Listening to the verses of these poets who cite Pound as master, I remember discovering Pound for myself in an early film lecture at the University of Kent. The lights were dimmed, the projector switched on and somebody read Pound’s haiku to the room, ‘In a Station of the Metro’ with its central image likening a crowd of commuters’ faces to flower petals. Cue darkness: a sound, whirr, yellow light burst from behind a silhouetted building – the New York City skyline. The chug of a subway train filled my ears, suddenly, a trumpet to herald shadowy figures rushing to their train in the early morning light. We were being shown D.A. Pennbaker’s short film Daybreak Express, which Pennebaker has said was inspired by the Pound haiku. It felt like watching a poem get up and walk about – the fusion of Duke Ellington’s rhythms and Pennebaker’s phantasmagoria of imagery pulsed with the beat of New York City. The combination of this film and the Pound haiku was unforgettable, and the memory was reawakened by last night’s event.
Sitting in the Poetry Library is like looking at a road map and having the means to go wherever you want. Their ever-growing collection is one of it’s kind and offers the most comprehensive and accessible collection of poetry from 1912 in the UK. Browsing the shelves during the interval it struck me how much can be communicated in so few words. In poetry words hover above the page, they hit you in places you had forgotten you had, and take you into different worlds. It would take a lifetime to get through the 100,000+ titles, neatly categorised on their shelves, but that is not a good enough reason not to start now.
Inspiration is unpredictable and exhilarating – there is no telling where a sound, a word or a reflection in a window may take you. I encourage anyone in the vicinity of the Southbank Centre to go to the Poetry Library on the 5th floor, to re-visit an old favourite or to discover something new.
I look forward, in this rich festival of literature, to seeing how inspiration grows.
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Filed under: London Literature Festival 2011, Poetry Library | Tagged: Ezra Pound, film, Haiku, inspiration, london, New York, Poetry | 2 Comments »