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VORTEX.POUND, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


In "Vortex," Ezra Pound proposes a vision for a new artistic philosophy known as Vorticism. The text is not so much a poem as it is a poetic manifesto-a set of declarative statements and ideas aimed at redefining the role of the artist and the arts. While manifestos are generally aimed at ushering in a new era of artistic endeavor, they also encapsulate the spirit and frustrations of their time. Pound's manifesto is no exception, and it stands as a compelling reaction to both modernity and the contemporary art movements of his day, such as Futurism and Impressionism.

Pound begins by defining the vortex as "the point of maximum energy," positioning it as a metaphor for the ideal form of artistic creation. According to Pound, the vortex is about "greatest efficiency," a term he borrows from mechanical language to underscore the idea that art, like mechanics, should aim for utmost efficacy in expression. This notion elevates the role of the artist from a mere receiver of perceptions to a force exerting influence on circumstance. The artist is not a passive entity but an active shaper of reality, akin to a mechanic applying expert knowledge to fine-tune a machine.

The text moves on to describe the 'Primary Pigment' of the art. According to Pound, each art form has a primary medium or pigment through which it achieves maximum efficiency. For poetry, this primary pigment is the 'Image.' Pound posits that all forms of experience can be reduced to a vivid, "primary form," be it a picture, music, or a poetic statement. This primary form is the most "highly energized statement," holding within it the raw force capable of affecting the receiver intensely.

The manifesto introduces the idea of the 'Turbine,' linking it to the vortex. Pound writes that "all experience rushes into this vortex," bringing with it "all the past that is living and worthy to live." By this, he suggests that the vortex not only encapsulates the immediacy of experience but also carries with it the weight of history, culture, and "race-memory." Such a notion posits the vortex as a constantly renewing force, taking in both the past and the potential of the future.

The text also critiques other art movements like Hedonism and Futurism, labeling them as "vacant" and "disgorging spray" respectively. According to Pound, these movements lack the concentrated energy of the vortex; they either wallow in vacuity or disperse their energies without focus.

Towards the end, the manifesto returns to the individual artist, emphasizing that Vorticism is "art before it has spread itself into a state of flacidity." Pound's Vorticism asks the artist to maintain a kind of purity, to stick to the primary pigment of their art form, whether it's the image in poetry or form and color in painting.

In closing, the manifesto offers quotations from other thinkers and artists like Pater, Whistler, and even Pound himself, forming a vortex of ideas that have influenced his conception of Vorticism. The text finishes with a brief poetic snippet by "H. D." (Hilda Doolittle), a contemporary of Pound, exemplifying the primary pigment of poetry as the 'Image.'

"Vortex" serves as a challenging but rewarding exploration of Pound's artistic vision. It offers a lens to view not just the arts but also the human condition, emphasizing efficiency, energy, and the intersection of past, present, and future. Above all, it champions the role of the artist as a vital force, a manipulator of primary pigments, situated at the center of a swirling vortex of experience and expression.


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