Ezra Pound – Suburban Fascist Poet

Day 176 of Colourisation Project – October 30

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born this day, October 30, 1885, in Hailey, Idaho, Ezra Pound, American poet and critic, is generally considered the poet most responsible for defining and promoting a modernist aesthetic in poetry.

T. S. Eliot declared Pound “more responsible for the twentieth-century revolution in poetry than [is] any other individual.” Pound was very active in promoting and advancing the work of other contemporary poets and writers including, W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D., James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and especially T. S. Eliot.

Eliot, in return dedicated The Waste Land (1922) to “Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro” (the better craftsman), and in his introduction to Pound’s Selected Poems (1928) declared, “I sincerely consider Ezra Pound the most important living poet in the English language.”

Ezra_Pound Bef & Aft

Photgrapher: Emil Otto Hoppé – Ezra Pound 1920 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

However, Pound was also considered one of the most controversial poets of the twentieth century, mainly for his series of over one-hundred pro-Fascist and anti-semitic broadcasts for Rome Radio from Italy to the United States during World War II. These ultimately led to his arrest on charges of treason in 1945. Although he was acquitted in 1946, he was declared mentally ill and committed to a psychiatric ward of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C., where he remained in confinement from twelve years.  American poet, Robert Frost led a successful campaign to have Pound finally liberated in 1958.

While temporarily imprisoned in Pisa, Italy, Pound completed the Pisan Cantos, a group of poems deemed “among the masterpieces of this century,” by the New York Times and which ironically won him the 1949 Bollingen Prize for Poetry, (awarded every two years by the Beinecke Library of Yale University).

His last years were overshadowed by self-doubt and an awareness of his ‘errors and wrecks’. He condemned his Cantos as a failure and attributable to his adherence to ideological fallacies.

Though Pound’s poetry is always undergoing re-evaluation, controversy around his writing continues. Noted American playwright, Arthur Miller considered Pound worse than Hitler. Hemingway wrote him off as ‘crazy’ claiming, “He deserves punishment and disgrace but what he really deserves most is ridicule.”  Ultimately, Pound’s anti-semitism sours any evaluation of his poetry. Furthermore separating the poetry from the antisemitism can be perceived as apologetic for the crimes against Jews in World War II.

In his latter years Pound’s extreme ideologies may have shifted. In the Ezra Pound biography by Humphrey Carpenter, Jewish poet, Allen Ginsberg recounts a private conversation in 1967, where Pound told him, “my poems don’t make sense,” characterizing his own writing as “stupid and ignorant, a mess”. Despite Ginsberg’s assurances that Pound “had shown us the way”, Pound refused to be mollified:

“Any good I’ve done has been spoiled by bad intentions – the preoccupation with irrelevant and stupid things,’ [he] replied. 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.'”

Upon his release from St. Elizabeth’s in 1958, Pound returned to Italy, settling in Venice, where he lived quietly as a semi-recluse, until his death on November 1, 1972. He was buried on the cemetery island, Isole di San Michele, in the Venetian Lagoon.

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Good art however ‘immoral’ is wholly a thing of virtue. Good art can NOT be immoral. By good art I mean art that bears true witness, I mean the art that is most precise.”  –  Ezra Pound

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2 Responses to Ezra Pound – Suburban Fascist Poet

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