In a Station of the Metro
By Ezra Pound


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








“In a Station of the Metro”: An Imagist Poem.

Imagery can be defined as a word or sequence of words that gives a sensory experience. According to Ezra Pound (one of the masters of imagist poetry), an image “is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” This definition of image fits perfectly with his own poem, “In a Station of the Metro.”


An imagist poem consists of two parts: object and image. The first line (“The apparition of those faces in the crowd”) is the object that the poet has chosen as his/her main subject. In order to understand this first line, we must look at the key images. The persona starts by describing the “… apparition of these faces…” which refers to a ghost looking figure. Here, the persona is trying to create an emotionless and gloomy image of people who are going through another repetitious day in a busy urban environment. Even here in Kuala Lumpur, we can see a similar atmosphere: exhausted city dwellers rushing in and out of buses and LRT with an empty expression on their face. In the first line, this face spread into the “crowd” like a contagious disease. But, that is how most people in the big city tend to live. They allow themselves to be consumed by the city, and eventually become living ghost. Overall, the first line gives an image of an emotionless city crowd.


In the second line, the persona expands the object in the first line. Petals are the bright outer part of a flower which can be interpreted as nature (including humans) surrounding the essence of life (the flower buds). However, the beauty of nature can be tainted by external forces such as cold water on a “black bough.” A bough with a petal on it can be seen as human tendency to lean onto something that is corrupted. Moreover, the persona uses “petals” instead of flower to show how little beauty is left in a corrupted world.


When we combine these two lines together, the title of the poem becomes clearer. The entire poem is an image of dullness and emptiness of an urban train station. Furthermore, the persona is also trying to show that this place and the people in it were once part of nature. But, modernism has transform everything into lifeless material beings.

NOTES
Kennedy, X. J. & Dona Gioia (2002). Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. new York: Longman.

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