Poetry News

Daniel Swift Details Discovery of Unpublished Ezra Pound Poem Lurking in a Castle

By Harriet Staff
Black and white photograph of Ezra Pound seated.

At Paris Review, Daniel Swift writes about finding a previously unpublished Ezra Pound poem in Schloss Brunnenburg castle. The discovery occured while Swift was researching Pound's years at St. Elizabeth's Hospital: "The Bughouse." As exciting as it may sound, Swift writes "Finding a previously unpublished poem by Ezra Pound sounds both adventurous and grittily archival, but really, this was neither." From there: 

It was waiting in an obvious place: in the Schloss Brunnenburg, in the Tyrol, in Northern Italy, which is the fairy-tale castle where Pound lived late in his life, and where his daughter still lives today. The poem wasn’t lost, it just hadn’t been found; and perhaps this is because it doesn’t look quite right. It is too tender, too small. It isn’t hugely complicated. Everyone knows that Pound was the archetypal impossible modernist, austere and difficult. Yet here was a little poem, written on the back of an envelope, about flowers. It lacks, for better and for worse, the grandeur we expect. 

It’s a trickier poem than it looks, of course. There are two objects, and the poem insists we trade one for the other, bread for hyacinths. They do not rhyme, for the poem has only one rhyme: “dole” and “soul.” “Dole” is an odd word, for it means both “money” and “grief.” We still have this double in the homophones dollar and dolor, and the slight tangle is explained simply. “Dole” is actually two words with different etymologies: one comes from the Old English, meaning “portion” or “share,” while the other comes from Latin, and this means “sorrow.” Two things become one; or one becomes two. The poem is halfway to an equation, and the exchange is carefully measured: in the figure “2” in the place of the word, in the mathematical symbol.

Read more at Paris Review.

Originally Published: September 21st, 2017