Yeats and Pound

W.B.Yeats (1865-1939)

continuing from here 

AG: Then next..  However, one thing I would point out. You can get equally perfect lyric matter (just like this stuff in the seventeenth and sixteenth century) out of William Butler Yeats‘  poems, particularly his later poems, so he’s really worth studying, Because he’s the only twentieth-cenury poet I know who has an ear equal to Marvell or.. myself..or those guys, King, Shirley...rare. It was rare to find a poet who was writing in rhyme in the twentieth-century that’s really got a good ear. You’ve got a lot of dead dead dead rhymed poems, all through the ‘twenties – Edward Arlington Robinson, Elinor Wylie, Louis Untermeyer, my own father (Louis Ginsberg), you know. They all were writing rhymed verse, somehow imitating this, tho’, by then, it had become so lax and without muscle, without music, without subtlety of ear, that to find someone who really could do something with stanzas and rhyme is rare. And William Butler Yeats is the one who  got it, does it- with a classic, Marvell-like stanza, rhymed stanzas.

Has anyone here studied Yeats very much?  Well, sooner or later in this, or around here, we should get on to his late poems.Because, you see, he was writing nineteenth- century murmurous poetry that had a dying fall and was kind of lax too, and Ezra Pound met him and split his skull open with his intelligence, and said…  And Yeats was shocked that these young modern kids had such a really factual idea of things in poetry. And he picked up from it, and he learned, and he pared down, cut all the fat out of his own rhymes and his own stanzas, and got very modern, from about 1925 on. once he was….   Pound was Yeats’ secretary, and answered his mail, and worked with him, and they lived together, you know, the families lived together in houses neighboring in Rapallo, in Northern Italy, on the Mediterranean. And Basil Bunting, who was a kid, was also coming down to visit and be acting as secretary. So there was like a group as there is down here (Naropa), you know, with all the poets hanging out together. But the main lesson that Pound was teaching Yeats was to cut down and pare it all down to active verbs, clear visual picture-stuff and keep… And the one thing that Yeats taught Pound was, when he was writing verse, he was always to be writing with “a chune in his ‘ead”   [from Instigations (1920) “Find a man with thematic invention and all he can say is that he gets what the Celts call “a chune” in his head, and that the words “go into it”, or when they don’t “go into it”, they “stick out and worry him”

Student:  Tune?

AG: Well that’s what Pound said about Yeats – that he always wrote with  “a chune in his ‘ead” – “Oirish” –  So he’d be sitting there, humming tunes to himself and that’s how he got it!

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in]


  1. When Ginsburg meets Pound he tells the old sacred Idaho poet
    with a flair for pr don’t drop the Celtic, keep a chune in your ‘ead Ezra..

    by then Pound wasn’t around and Ginsburg was shopping in a supermarket in California…

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