Reality Intrudes: A Moment In The Cantos That Changes Everything

Updated: Jul 15

1.

Reality intrudes at the start of “Canto III” of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, creating the pivot on which the poem rises from the land of the dead described in the first two Cantos to announce itself as an epic, with the poet as its hero. This moment of reality comprises just six lines describing a decade-old memory. But they carry tremendous weight. It is the process by which they acquire that weight and how they come into the poem in this form that interests me here.

Here’s the background:

It is April, 1908. Ezra Pound has just arrived in Venice. There is scandal behind him: