Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound

Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (30 October 1885 – 1 November 1972) was an American expatriate poet and critic, who became a major figure of the early modernist movement. His contribution to poetry began with his promotion of Imagism, a movement that derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, stressing clarity, precision and economy of language. His best-known works include Ripostes (1912), Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and his unfinished 120-section epic, The Cantos (1917–1969).

Working in London in the early 20th century as foreign editor of several American literary magazines, Pound helped to discover and shape the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. He was responsible for the publication in 1915 of Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and for the serialization from 1918 of Joyce's Ulysses. Hemingway wrote of him in 1925: "He defends when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. ... He writes articles about them. He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying ... he advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide."

Outraged by the loss of life during the First World War, he lost faith in England, blaming the war on usury and international capitalism. He moved to Italy in 1924, where throughout the 1930s and 1940s, to his friends' dismay, he embraced Benito Mussolini's fascism, expressed support for Adolf Hitler and wrote for publications owned by Oswald Mosley. The Italian government paid him during the Second World War to make hundreds of radio broadcasts criticizing the United States, as a result of which he was arrested for treason by American forces in Italy in 1945. He spent months in detention in a U.S. military camp in Pisa, including 25 days in a six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cage that he said triggered a mental breakdown, "when the raft broke and the waters went over me." Deemed unfit to stand trial, he was incarcerated in St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, D.C., for over 12 years.

While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress, triggering enormous controversy. He was released from St. Elizabeths in 1958, thanks to a campaign by his fellow writers, and returned to live in Italy until his death. His political views ensure that his work remains controversial; in 1933 Time magazine called him "a cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children." Hemingway nevertheless wrote: "The best of Pound's writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature."

Read more about Ezra PoundParis (1921–24), Italy (1958–72), Reception, Works

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Famous quotes by ezra pound:

    The real meditation is ... the meditation on one’s identity. Ah, voilà une chose!! You try it. You try finding out why you’re you and not somebody else. And who in the blazes are you anyhow? Ah, voilà une chose!
    Ezra Pound (1885–1972)

    But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
    Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
    Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
    Unwept, unwrapped in sepulchre, since toils urged other.
    Ezra Pound (1885–1972)

    I
    Am here a Poet, that doth drink of life
    As lesser men drink wine.
    Ezra Pound (1885–1972)

    You let me throw the bricks through the front window. You go in at the back and take the swag.
    Ezra Pound (1885–1972)

    The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.
    Pull down thy vanity, it is not man
    Made courage, or made order, or made grace.
    Pull down thy vanity, I say pull down.
    Ezra Pound (1885–1972)