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From Poetry Magazine

Pound’s “Station,” Lorca’s “Rider,” and Berryman’s “Traveler”

By Lindsay Garbutt

In April 1913, Ezra Pound published a series of poems under the title “Contemporania” in Poetry. The final poem in the group is one of Pound’s most well-known (and frequently memorized) poems, the two-line “In a Station of the Metro,” above.

Ezra Pound published work in Poetry from its first issue and was Poetry’s long-time foreign correspondent. “In a Station of the Metro” is considered the epitome of Imagist poetry, a movement which, conveniently, Pound clarified in the previous issue (March 1913) with “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste”:

It is the presentation of such a “complex” instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

Read more from the April 1913 issue for William Butler Yeats’s “The Grey Rock,” his second appearance in the magazine, and an editorial by Harriet Monroe on “The New Beauty,” in which she calls Rabindranath Tagore the poet who “has the keenest vision of the new beauty, and the richest modern message.”

From its inception, Poetry welcomed translations of work from around the world. (A legacy upheld today with our annual translation issue, in addition to publishing translations throughout the year.) April 1937 marks the first appearance of Federico Garcia Lorca’s work in the magazine, translated by Rolfe Humphries. His poem “Rider’s Song” is above.

Alas! the long, long highway,
Alas! my valiant pony,
Alas, that death is waiting
Before I reach Cordova.

Cordova, far and lonely.

Lorca’s biographical note at the back of the issue alerts readers to the untimely passing of the “distinguished Spanish poet who, it is now known, was killed by the rebel forces last autumn.”

Lorca’s work continued to appear in Poetry decades after his death, with “Ode to Walt Whitman” translated by Ben Belitt in January 1955; “Gacela of the Remembrance of Love” translated by James Wright in June 1960; “Somnabulist Ballad” translated by W.D. Snodgrass in February 1991; and “The Unfaithful Housewife” translated by Conor O’Callaghan.

(As with any translation, there was lots of conversation about the fidelity of “The Unfaithful Housewife” to the original poem, which you can read in the letters of the September 2011 issue.)

In April 1948, John Berryman had his first appearance in Poetry with “The Traveler,” above, and four other poems.

They pointed me out on the highway, and they said
‘That man has a curious way of holding his head,’

They pointed me out on the beach; they said ‘That man
Will never become as we are, try as he can.’

In those days, we had a glossy photo spread in the middle of the magazine to show readers just what these poets looked like. Here’s what we find in April 1948:

Read the rest of the issue for Berryman’s “The Dispossessed” and other poems, as well as reviews by William Carlos Williams, Hayden Carruth, and Muriel Rukeyser.

Finally, we’ll leave you with this touching little reminder of just how far issues of Poetry traveled, as displayed on the back of the April 1924 issue:

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Posted in From Poetry Magazine on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 by Lindsay Garbutt.