Ezra Pound's Three Kinds of Poetry

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Ezra Pound distinguished three "kinds of poetry:" melopoeia, phanopoeia, and logopoeia.


Melopoeia or melopeia is when words are "charged" beyond their normal meaning with some musical property which further directs its meaning,[1] inducing emotional correlations by sound and rhythm of the speech.

Melopoeia can be "appreciated by a foreigner with a sensitive ear" but does not translate well, according to Pound.[1]


Phanopoeia or phanopeia is defined as "a casting of images upon the visual imagination,"[1] throwing the object (fixed or moving) on to the visual imagination.

Phanopoeia can be translated without much difficulty, according to Pound.


Logopoeia or logopeia is a word coined in 1917 by Ezra Pound referring to the most recent of what he saw as "the three kinds of poetry:" poetry that uses words for more than just their direct meaning,[1] stimulating the visual imagination with phanopoeia and inducing emotional correlations with melopoeia.

Pound coined the word from Greek roots in a 1917 review of Mina Loy's poetry[citation needed] — he defined the term as "the dance of the intellect among words."[1] Elsewhere he changes intellect to intelligence.[citation needed] In the New York Herald Tribune of 20 January 1929, he gave a less opaque definition: poetry which "employs words not only for their direct meaning, but [...] takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word".[1]

Logopoeia is the most recent kind of poetry and does not translate well, according to Pound.

Logopoeia could not have been coined by Pound, as it already existed in classical Greek, as you can see by looking at any version of Liddell and Scott. You don't coin a word when you take over an already existing word, even if you alter the meaning to a greater or lesser extent.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Pound, Ezra. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. New Directions Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8112-0157-5. 
  2. ^ Greek-English Lexicon, ninth edition, Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott (Oxford UP, 1940), p. 1057