Pound, Ezra

  Poetry & Prose    Books / People

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an expatriate American poet and critic. He was famously a major figure in the early modernist poetry movement. He was infamously a fascist collaborator in Italy during World War II.

|  30th October, 1885, Idaho, United States.
|  1st November 1972, Venice, Italy.

Literature is news that stays news.

There is no reason why the same person should like the same books at twenty-three and at forty-four.

“Erat Hora”

“Thank you, whatever comes.” And then she turned
And, as the ray of sun on hanging flowers
Fades when the wind hath lifted them aside,
Went swiftly from me. Nay, whatever comes
One hour was sunlit and the most high gods
May not make boast of any better thing
Than to have watched that hour as it passed.

— From Personae: The Collected Poems of Ezra Pound

In 1945, Ezra Pound was due to stand trial for treason for his broadcasts in Fascist Italy during the Second World War. But before the trial could take place Pound was pronounced insane and was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital near Washington, DC, where he was held for over a decade.

At the hospital, Pound was at his most contradictory and most controversial: a genius writer – ‘The most important living poet in the English language’ according to T. S. Eliot – but also a traitor and now, seemingly, a madman. But he remained a magnetic figure. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell and John Berryman all went to visit him at what was perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon: convened by a fascist and held in a lunatic asylum.

Told through the eyes of his illustrious visitors, The Bughouse captures the essence of Pound – the artistic flair and, the profound human flaws.

Often dismissed as simply ‘bad’ or ‘mad’, the nature of Ezra Pound’s fascist propaganda has been much discussed, but far less well understood to date. In consequence, the extent of Pound’s activism has been wildly underestimated; there are, for example, thousands of pro-Axis radio items during WWII. These manuscripts, extending to extensive propaganda strategies and a dozen pseudonymous names, collectively reveal a modernist author far more engaged with the Axis war effort than has been previously acknowledged. Feldman’s ‘new historicist’ approach argues that Pound was a committed, influential and significant Anglophone propagandist for Mosley’s BUF, Mussolini’s Italy and finally, Hitler’s Germany. Through close analysis of historical context and an approach to Pound’s fascist activism through the lens of ‘political religions’ theory, this book challenges conventional wisdom on this canonical modernist by finding Pound to be a leading propagator of the ‘fascist faith’.

Pound also offered a carefully worded rejection of his antisemitism, according to Reck. When Ginsberg reassured Pound that he had “shown us the way”. Pound is said to have replied: “Any good I’ve done has been spoiled by bad intentions—the preoccupation with irrelevant and stupid things.” Reck continued: “Then very slowly, with emphasis, surely conscious of Ginsberg’s being Jewish: ‘But the worst mistake I made was that stupid, suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism.'”

Poets are Damned… but See with the Eyes of Angels.


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