“Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ ” was the formula of the movement that Pound invented, in 1912: Imagism. In the Imagist model, the writer is a sculptor. Technique consists of chipping away everything superfluous in order to reveal the essential form within. “It took you ninety-seven words to do it,” Pound is reported to have remarked to a young literary aspirant who had handed him a new poem. “I find it could have been managed in fifty-six.” He claimed that his best-known short poem, “In a Station of the Metro,” took a year and a half to write, and that he had cut it down from thirty lines:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
The form “made new” here is, of course, the haiku: two images juxtaposed to evoke a sensation—in this case, according to Pound, the sensation of beauty. It’s important to recognize, though, that the subject of the poem is not “these faces”; the subject is “the apparition.” (Otherwise, the first three words would be superfluous, subject to the Imagist razor.) The faces are not what matters. What matters is the impression they make in the mind of a poet. That is where the work of association takes place. This is what poets do: they connect an everyday x with an unexpected y.
(from The New Yorker, June 9. Also, further proof that you should always read all of The New Yorker, even if you think an article will bore you, as I thought with Pound because, come on, Pound.)