It is important to understand what is involved. From Edmund Spenser onwards in English verse the finest art was employed in running over the verse line so as to build up larger units of movement such as the strophe, the Miltonic verse paragraph, or, in Shakespearean and other theatrical poetry, the sustained dramatic speech.... the grammatical unit, the sentence, is draped over the metrical unit, the line.... This is not to “break” the pentameter (or more generally the verse-line of whatever length), but rather to submerge it, by incorporating the line into the building of larger and more intricate rhythmical units.... It was only when the line was considered as the unit of composition, as it was by Pound in Cathay, that there emerged the possibility of “breaking” the line, of disrupting it from within.
This is so in accord with my last post about meter. Never having read much in Pound besides his anthology pieces, I was not heavily influenced. I knew that a great “shake up” had occurred; but never quite knew the nature of it—so for me (for example) using the Spenserian stanza was an available recourse for “the building of larger... [poetic] units” as Davie says. Other poets have taken refuge in the iambic pentameter—so it certainly was not broken in perpetuity.
Pound himself seems to have recognized that something was amiss—as in an anecdote Perloff reports:
Allen Ginsberg, calling on Pound in 1967, explains to the (nearly silent) old poet that he has been able to find certain works of art in Venice, say, a fountain or a fresco or “the casa que fue de Don Carlos,” merely by following the “descriptions—of exact language composed” —the “tin flash in the sun dazzle” and “soap-smooth stone posts” of the Cantos. When Pound demurs, declaring that “any good [in the Cantos] has been spoiled by my intentions—the preoccupation with irrelevant and stupid things,” Ginsberg replies: “Ah well, what I’m trying to tell you—what I came here for all this time—was to give you my blessing then, because despite your delusion... my perceptions have been strengthened by a series of practical exact language models which are scattered throughout the Cantos like stepping stones.”
Pound has provided a box of tools, as abundant for this generation as those Spenser provided for the Elizabethans, and a man who is not influenced in this sense of trying to use at least some of those tools, is simply not living in his own century.