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Cantos, The

magnum opus, A Draft of XVI Cantos, Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX to CXVII

pound sections range ezra

Ezra Pound's compendious magnum opus, published in numerous sections between A Draft of XVI Cantos (1925) and Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX to CXVII (1970); the fullest available text is The Cantos (1987). Having become dissatisfied with the essentially miniaturist idiom of Imagism after about 1915, Pound sought to discover a form capable of accommodating the wide range of tones, thematic interests, and styles of verse which he had developed since around 1908. Three provisional sections appeared in Poetry, Chicago, in 1917, although it was not until his move to Paris in 1920 that he began his fifty years of sustained effort on The Cantos. The aesthetics of the Vorticists, stressing the need for spatial integrity in artistic creation, and the impression made upon him by the architectonics of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land were of importance in determining the diversity and interrelatedness of the poems' constituent elements. Greek, Chinese, American, English, Italian, and African texts are among the materials invoked in Pound's projection of his, and Western civilization's, cultural frame of reference. Stylistically the work's range is enormous, extending from lyric modes of great refinement and delicacy to passages in the roughest American vernacular. The recurrence of literary, historical, legal, and mythological themes interwoven with autobiographical reflections unifies the shifting textures of the many sections, which can nevertheless succeed in being simultaneously baffling and compelling to the reader. W. Cookson's A Guide to the Cantos of Ezra Pound (1985) is among the most straightforward of the many commentaries on the work, which continues to generate controversy over its meanings and value.

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