In a Station of the Metro

by Ezra Pound
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What is the comparison Pound makes in "In a Station of the Metro"? What is he trying to accomplish with that comparison?

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Before diving into a discussion of Ezra Pound’s poem “In a Station of the Metro” it is worth taking a minute to outline Pound’s style so we can understand his goals. Ezra Pound was the founder of a poetic style called Imagism. The Imagist poets admired precision of language; they shunned verbose, allusion-laden styles of earlier poetry. Pound described the “image” as,

that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.

This definition functions as a statement of Pound’s objective for his poetry: to impart a profound “intellectual and emotional” experience using as few words as possible.

With this context in mind, let’s examine Ezra Pound’s poem “In a Station of the Metro”. This short poem is often described as the archetypal example of the Imagist style for how it creates a poignant mental picture using only fourteen words. The poem is below in its entirety,

“In A Station of the Metro”
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The title of Pound’s poem is noteworthy and important to the poem's context because it provides the setting: a busy metro station. Without the context provided by the title, the single metaphor in the poem would lack weight.

The poem compares the faces in the crowded metro to petals on a wet, black bough of a tree. The metaphor is strengthened by the total lack of verbs in the poem. With “In a Station of the Metro”, Pound crisply captures a single moment with precise language. If we re-examine Pound’s own purpose with his poetry of capturing “an instant in time” with words, most would argue that he accomplished his goal.

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