sestina swirl
Fiction

Sestina: Ezra Pound

LOQUITUR: En Ezra Pound.
They imprisoned this man in a hell-hole for that he was a traitor.
Eccovi!
Judge ye!
The scene is at the end of his life.

I

I was a young man, keen on exploring.
Poetry is a heavy duty
So I assumed great writers and put on their masking,
Paying my tribute through translation.
There was a necessary clashing
As I tried to capture their essence.

II

I began my search for essence
Through personae which I started exploring.
They said my form and theme were clashing
But ideas, not adjectives, were my duty.
I continued in a long series of translations
Which were but more elaborate masking.

III

The apparition of these faces, masking
Selves in the crowd. Concrete images showed essence,
Capturing an instant of time through sparse translation.
(Hellenic hardness had stopped our exploring
Of des Imagistes’ duty,
Hence came the vortex from poets clashing.)

IV

And then there was the War—nations clashing.
The fragility of Mauberley’s masking
Crumbled to reveal true duty:
A calling to reform society’s essence.
A rebirth. Gaudier died exploring
This idea, a collective translation.

V

How did this come about? Usury was a critical translation.
Such deaths and losses. All clashing.
I began again, exploring.       
Capitalism was the masking.
They said traitor was my essence
But I did what I had to do, to do my duty.

VI

I am no longer up to my duty.
I reject my translation.
I was out of focus, taking symptom for essence.
The cause is AVARICE. I was tired of the clashing.
My stanzas and Cantos just worthless masking.
Spent, I am an old man, weary of exploring.

VII

It has always been my duty to witness clashing,
To use translation and tear away the masking.
I only ever wanted to capture the essence and go exploring.

 

This is my sestina on Ezra Pound.

A sestina is a fixed verse form. It is six verses of six lines, then a concluding three-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in the following five stanzas, rotated in a rigid spiral pattern.

sestina pattern

The final envoi also includes all of the end-words, conventionally in a 2, 5 / 4, 3 / 6, 1 pattern.

The most famous sestina is probably Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”

Ezra Pound also wrote a noteworthy sestina early in his life, “Sestina: Altaforte.” I wrote an essay about Pound’s sestina, “Poet and Persona in Sestina: Altaforte.”

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