Ezra Pound was a rebel and wanted to do things his way in regard to poetry – and so he did. In the introduction of The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Volume D), it states: “Pound first campaigned for ‘imagistic,’ his name for a new kind of poetry. Rather than describing something – an object or situation – and then generalizing about it, imagist poets attempted to present the object directly, avoiding the ornate diction and complex but predictable verse forms of traditional poetry.”
Pound’s 1913 poem “In a Station of the Metro” demonstrates his imagistic motif in a couple of lines:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
This short piece illustrates his imagistic talent because the entire poem deals with images alone. It is not complex; rather, the two-line poem is straightforward and to the point. The brevity of the poem intrigues with a deep message regarding the beauty and diversity of human beings.
One word that overshadows all the rest in line one is apparition. The word apparition alone means a ghostly figure, something strange or unusual that suddenly comes into view. Pound may have seen different faces in a Paris subway and defined the “faces in the crowd” with the illustration of pure beauty or images of flawless human beings. The reason for formulating such assertion is because of this: with the meaning and usage of the word apparition, it enables Pound to convey the expression of shock and awe once he steps into the metro station. It’s almost as if he discovers the faces in the crowd surprisingly. More important, he may have not seen the faces clearly and saw only a blur that he interpreted as a vision of attractiveness.
The second line of the poem renders one word that overshadows all the rest: petals. Petals are vibrant flowers that have different colors and represent beauty when blossomed, which he identifies as the “faces in the crowd.” Additionally, petals are flowers that come in various shades, sizes, shapes, and so forth – akin to human beings. Therefore, Pound perhaps envisioned the people in the crowd as beautiful, for the diversity they embodied.
In all, the poem is incredibly short – but meaningful – and takes the meaning of short poetry to its purest form. However, the images are captivating and make the poem move beyond the literal, for the two images that stand out are apparition and petals. When one thinks of apparition, the first thing that comes to mind is a ghostly figure. When one thinks of petals, something soft and delightful comes to mind as a floral.
Thus, Pound takes the two words and morphs them together as one to get a greater effect, meaning that when he witnessed mysterious faces in the crowd with various colors and shapes, it rendered a good-looking sight in his eyes. The poem shows that whatever color, size, or shape a person embodies, he or she still has some characteristics of beauty – regardless of his/her outer appearance.
[Originally Written January 18, 2008]