In a Station of the Metro

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In a Station of the Metro

by Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

This very short poem is an example of “imagist” poetry, by modernist poet Ezra Pound. Here we see two sentence fragments combined to paint a compelling visual image of a scene at the metro. Pound achieves this by inviting the reader to compare the two scenes, from the two fragments, and to discern how the latter informs us about the former.

The extreme brevity places greater import on key words within the work, particularly “apparition.” Does the Speaker refer merely to their appearance or is the implication that there is something ghostly about them? I picture visible but difficult to discern faces, almost as if they are being viewed in dim light or through a fog. The dark and the wet adjectives from the second clause contribute to that for me. Crowd is another key word, and it finds a parallel in “bough.” Bough allows us to see the faces lined up, perhaps forming a line, or lines, while waiting.

Notice also that the poet does not use any verbs in the piece. The “image” is the point, rather than the action.

From The Poetry Foundation:


An early 20th-century poetic movement that relied on the resonance of concrete images drawn in precise, colloquial language rather than traditional poetic diction and meter. T.E. HulmeH.D., and William Carlos Williams were practitioners of the imagist principles as laid out by Ezra Pound in the March 1913 issue of Poetry (see “A Retrospect” and “A Few Don’ts”). Amy Lowell built a strain of imagism that used some of Pound’s principles and rejected others in her Preface to the 1916 anthology, Some Imagist Poets.