Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972)

Life and Works

Ezra Pound is a pivotal figure in the horizon of twentieth-century European culture. He contributed to the birth and development of the modernist moment. Pound's achievement in and for culture was manifold. He was not only a prominent poet who forged a new poetic idiom, but also a most influential critic who laid the theoretical foundations of a new poetics and developed the new principles of style that marked the 20thc. He created the modernist platform, institutions, and forum.

Pound's was also a creative translator, a dramatist, a librettist and a musicologist. Among his far-reaching achievements he translated Confucius, wrote an opera Le Testament de Villon performed in Paris 1926, wrote music and art criticism, promoted concerts, and revived the interest in Vivaldi.

Pound's foremost contribution to poetry was as a promoter. Pound established a network of editors, publishers, magazines, acted as a liaison among writers, patrons and publishing institutions, and through his energetic interaction ensured the dissemination of the artistic works, texts and theories of modernism.

Improvident for himself and mindful of others to extreme degrees, he provided help to major twenty-century writers. At a time when they were still unknown, Pound helped in one way or another, through aesthetic advice and practical support, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, e.e. cummings, D. H. Lawrence. Pound showed even Yeats, the most famous living poet in the second decade of the century, how to modernize his art.

Pound had an unerring sense for quality and one of his major concerns over the years was to search for and assist promising artists. Devoted to poetry, he selflessly encouraged and assisted the artistic or material fortunes of many promising artists, helping them for the sake of poetry with money of which he had very little, establishing their reputation, enabling their publication, sometimes offering to withdraw his own work so as to give them preference, as in the case of Marianne Moore, H. D., Eliot or Joyce. His efforts were for the sake of art and regardless of his personal sympathy for the people he helped. He actively interceded in order to facilitate their publication, very often generously offering

Pound bought marble for Gaudier-Brzeska. He subsidized Joyce, undertook a publicity campaign, helped him with used clothes, campaigned for funds, and got him published. In 1922 he started a philanthropic movement Bel Esprit in order to help Eliot and other writers financially.

In 1912, Harriet Monroe editor of the newly founded Chicago based magazine Poetry asked Pound to become her foreign correspondent, a position that enabled Pound to select and disseminate the kind of poetry that reflected a modernist sensibility, and prepare the literary gusto of another kind of audience. Later he would become poetry editor of various avant-garde journals: in 1913 of Dora Marsden and Harriet Shaw Weaver's The Egoist, originally a London based women's suffrage magazine called The New Freewoman; in 1917 Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap's The Little Review in which parts of Ulysses would appear thanks to his intercession; and in 1920 of The Dial (New York).

As foreign editor or foreign correspondent, Pound was free to establish his own poetic campaigns on behalf of modernist art. Poetry became a forum for emergent poets: H. D., Robert Frost, Richard Aldington, D. H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, T. S. Eliot. It was an alternative journal to the derivative turn of the century poetry that published the first manifestos of the imagist program. The Egoist was to become the other main outlet of modernism where Pound arranged the appearance of Marianne Moore's poems, Wyndham Lewis's Tarr, and Eliot's Prufrock and Other Observations. Very often, Pound secretly advanced payment for the printing. He was also responsible of Harriet Shaw Weaver's extensive support of Joyce and the printing of his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Later he co-opted the Little Review for the serialization of Ulysses, and the publication of other modernist works.

As Frank Lentricchia aptly remarks in Modernist Quartet, "none of all his artist companions, not even Joyce, achieved the infamy and authority of Pound." Pound was born on October 30 in Hailey, a mining town of Idaho, son of Isabel and Homer Pound. Among his ancestors are Pennsylvania Quakers, New York state horse thieves and H. W. Longfellow. Pound's father, in charge of the US land office in Hailey, took up a job as an assistant assayer in the US Mint and the family moved to Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Pound grew up in a world of modest culture and middle-class gentility. At fifteen he knew he would become a poet. He went to college and graduate school to the University of Pennsylvania (1901-1906) and because of his poor marks transferred later to Hamilton College, NY, where he got his BA and returned to University of Pennsylvania for his Masters. While at Pennsylvania University he befriended Williams Carlos Williams, then a medical student, and H. D., whom he courted for a period of time.

Pound took comparative literature, studied Classical, Romance and Germanic languages, specializing in late medieval and Renaissance literature of Romance languages. He studied Latin, French, Italian and Spanish. His interest in the Proven?al tradition of the troubadours, the dolce stil nuovo, Dante and Villon will have a lasting influence on his work. Later, in an attempt to go beyond Eurocentric horizons he developed an interest in Chinese, that would become even stronger in his maturer years. Pound did not excel as a student, yet his opinions on classical and medieval literature led to a series of lectures he gave later in London at the Regent Polytechnic and which appeared as a collection of essays in 1910 The Spirit of Romance.

In 1908, Pound abandoned his position of instructor at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana because he let a showgirl spend the night in his room, a gesture that outraged college authorities. With no money, no friends, nor plans of employment, he sailed to Europe. Pound believed that the blend of materialistic and Puritanic strictures in the US had a stifling effect on a true artist. In Italy, England and France he would find an audience more congenial to his anarchic, bohemian and romantic personality and poetic style. The beginning of his literary career started with an act of expatriation.

In July 1908, he arrived in Venice unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a gondolier. He published at his own expense his first book A Lume Spento. He met Ruth Heyman, a classical pianist, eleven years his senior, temporarily on a concert tour and offered to become her manager. To her he would dedicate his second book of poems, A Quinzaine for this Yule (London). With several copies of his book and no more than 3 pounds cash he arrived in London.

Pound was an anarchic bohemian eccentric. Ford Madox Ford remembers the singularity of his figure during his London years-- he had a flaming beard, an immense sombrero, a single large blue earring, green trousers, a pink coat, a blue shirt and a hand-painted tie by a Japanese friend--and with the step of a dancer he roamed through the city pointing his cane at an imaginary opponent.

In London Pound introduced himself in the literary world. He attended Ernest Rhys's and T. E. Hulme's evenings; he met Henry James, Ford Madox Ford, F. S. Flint, Gaudier-Brzeska, Wyndham Lewis and his future wife Dorothy Shakespear to whom he would get married in 1914. He engaged a life long friendship with Yeats whom he revered as the most important English poet, and with whom he shared a mystical and visionary affinity together with an interest for the occult. He acted as his secretary and spent together three winters from 1913 to 1916 at Stone Cottage, Sussex, time during which he helped him modernize his poetry.

Between 1908 and 1915 he produced eight books of poems (1909 Personae and Exultations; 1911 Canzoni; 1912 Ripostes; 1915 Cathay; 1916 Lustra; Sonnets and Ballate of Guido Cavalcanti. These poems are brought together in Collected Early Poems and Personae. They are imaginative exercises and attempts at experimentation with different styles ranging from fin-de-si?cle romantic modes to satirical moeurs contemporaines. Pound conceived translations as a re-invention of previous material in which the original is recreated from a new historical perspective of the present and existentially and psychologically fused and highlighted by modernity.

Pound's artistic creation paralleled his academic training. Like Eliot, Pound believed that poetry was a matter of inspiration as well as craftsmanship, of technique and conscious discipline to be hardly earned. He began his process of apprenticeship as a free translator and re-creator of unknown and far cultures, and of forgotten or obscure poets, that he readapted to the necessities of modernity. He contributed to a revival and renewed interest in Greek lyrics, minor Latin poets, Proven?al troubadours, Classical Chinese poetry. His goal was to shape a new sensibility based on a trans-historical and transcultural realities.

Pound made high claims for art and endowed the poet with a salient role. His poetry oscillates between the romantic cult for beauty and a demiurgic will to redeem and rebuild modern culture. His service to art presupposed a social engagement with civilization. Culture was of social and existentially vital consequences to civilization. Art implied not only an aesthetic quest as it did for the romantics but also a commitment to society and a will to raise its culture to a higher level. The artist was a sort of cultural hero, fashioned both on the romantic ideal of the poet as prophet, rhapsode and seer as well as on the neo-classical conception of erudite epic poet of universal vocation.

Pound's poems present competing trends of romantic and classicist tradition. A mystical imaginative world inhabited by ethereal spirits, full of luminous moments coexists with a historical concern of evocation of different dramatis personae, whom Pound tries to resuscitate imitating Browning. In terms of style, inflated, at times, over elaborate lyrics--Canzoni was ridiculed in 1911 by Ford Madox Ford for its abstract imprecisions reminiscent of Victorian conventionality--alternate with more direct self-consciously modern forms of expression. Pound's diction varies from lyrically poeticized and archaic tones to more colloquial and direct accents.

Pound created new poetry by imaginary translations that re-adapt and refashion the poetry of the past. Newness issued from the interaction between the past and the present, from the recovery of lost forms of expression re-adapted to the needs of a new age. Pound's early poetry is a poetry of voices, voices that are dead or voices of animistic spirits, masks, reincarnations of dead souls. His dramatic speakers are mostly historic or legendary figures who act as identifying projections of a twentieth-century narrative voices.

As Witemeyer aptly remarks, Pound remained attracted by the romantic ideal of visionary imagination and an underlying animistic metaphysics of Platonism. His imaginative world presents a repertoire of ethereal spirits, illuminations, apparitions, wondrous metamorphoses, that are presented in a new direct, concrete, and objective manner in which the ethereal becomes palpable and acquires a tangible intangibility.



Pound felt dissatisfied with the state of poetry at the beginning of the century, which in retrospect he described as "a horrible agglomerate compost, not minted, most of it not even baked, all legato, a doughy mess of third-hand Keats, Wordsworth... fourth-hand Elizabethan sonority blunted, half melted, lumpy" (LE 205). He tried to rid poetry of its Romantic trappings, stirring inflated rhetoric, poeticized clichés, its vagueness and languid tones of evocation, clumsy rhythm.

In 1912, together with T. E. Hulme, H.D., who had arrived in London in 1911, Richard Aldington, and F. S. Flint he founded a movement called Imagisme. This was a descendant group of an earlier one founded by T. E. Hulme, F. S. Flint and Pound, also devoted to the "school of images".

Imagism was one of the most distinct movements in English and American poetry of the twentieth century. Its theory and practice articulated the foundation of twentieth century poetics. Imagism exerted its influence beyond the specific members of a movement and bearing on generations subsequent to the modernist moment.

In March 1913, Poetry published the first Imagist manifesto. In 1914, Pound was putting together the first anthology Des Imagistes. The goal of imagism was to redefine the nature of poetry and to do away with stereotyped clichés of poetic language. The French resonances of the new group were a tribute to the French influence of the French Parnassiens-- Théophile Gautier, Jules Laforgue, Remy de Gourmont, Tristan Corbiere, Baudelaire--and the Flaubertian principles of impersonality which came to represent the ideal standards of imagist stylistic values. Imagism was a reaction against Victorian sentimentalism and abstract discursive modes of expression, which found its regenerating and revitalizing sources in Flaubertian aesthetics of "le mot juste", the compactness of Greek lyrics and the Japanese influence of haiku.

Imagist doctrine was an attempt to eliminate all unpoetical elements, the decorative, the ornate, artificial diction, verbiage, rhetoric, traditional prosody, explicit philosophizing. It aimed to get rid of the superfluous elements and to reduce poetry to its pure essence, which in the imagist vocabulary meant "images", a synthesis and concentration of intuitive language embodied in concrete objects. The poem had to be "clear", "hard" -- as much like granite... austere, direct. Free from emotional slither" -- deprived of unnecessary connectives, free of abstract generalities. Its virtues resided in its concreteness, power of concentration, clarity, precision, directness, objective and unmediated presentation as opposed to evocative, discursive language. Rejecting traditional prosody, it cultivated free verse and a colloquial, idiomatic idiom, which would require of poetry to be "as well written as prose." The new poetics tendered concrete objectivity against sentimental effusions. It advocated scientific, precise observation of fact and proscribed abstract generalities. Pound believed the diversity of world cultures was endangered by abstract modes of thinking.

In "A Few Don'ts by an Imagist" (Poetry, March 1913) Pound succinctly presented the rules of the new aesthetic based on a direct, concise and unmediated examination of the object:

1. Direct presentation of the "thing," whether subjective of objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome (LE 3-4)

Pound defined the image as "an intellectually and emotional complex in an instant of time".

Imagism was also a campaign led against the mimetic dimension of art. It violated traditional canons of representation by presenting no longer an existing reality but a new set of spontaneous relationships. The image was not a mirror set to reality that reflected or registered the given world outside but a lens, a model, which re-shaped and re-constructed the world anew. Its main goal was to break down conventional habits of perception and to disclose the unconnected, hidden, undiscerned aspects of reality. The image shared the common impulse of the avant-garde to dehumanize art, to challenge rational discourse and frustrate the intellect's capacity of translating everything into recognizable patterns. Its strategies of direct presentation, juxtapositions, break of syntax, suppression of connectives, ellipses, its unnamed analogies created a meta-language with a logic of its own that gravitates towards the reality of hidden realities.

For Pound the image as conveyed "a sudden sense of liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art". For him the image was a "delightful psychic experience" representing mysterious moments of illumination, which although concretely rendered, were endowed with a transcendent neo-Platonic noumenal reality of mystical and metaphysical dimensions, and depended on subconscious, quasi-mystical energies (Witemeyer). Newness resided in the perceptual concreteness that is given to the underlying neo-Platonic metaphysics.

In 1913, Pound received the manuscripts of Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) and American Oriental art historian who at the time of his death had been working on translations of Chinese poems, Japanese Noh plays and had undertaken a more general analysis of Oriental art. In Fenollosa'a theories concerning the Chinese ideogram, which binds the abstract concept to concrete constituent elements that are pictographically represented, Pound found a corroboration of imagist principles that also seek to achieve the unity between the abstract and the concrete. The ideogram synthesized identity and difference; it reconciled conceptual unity and sensory multiplicity.

The Noh plays, which were to have a decisive influence on Yeats, revealed how the unity and intensity of a single image replaced plot, a strategy congenial to imagist poetics that suppressed discursive arguments. The Fenollosa material led to Pound's imagist translations of classic Chinese poetry in Cathay (1915) and to the publication of Certain Noble Plays of Japan (1916), which appeared with an introduction by Yeats. The ideogram pointed to a new method of concrete presentation that fused identity and difference, the concrete and the abstract. It offered Pound a valid approach to conceptual and figurative language, which became the structuring method of the Cantos.

By 1914, when the conceptual integrity of Imagism became diluted, by its adepts and imitators, Pound abandoned it to the control of Amy Lowell, and founded Vorticism together with Wyndham Lewis, English painter and writer, and the French sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska. The provocative magazine Blast became the forum of the Vorticist movement. It agglutinated sculptors such as Jacob Epstein, painters like David Bomberg, Edward Wadsworth and Wyndham Lewis. Vorticism was a more interdisciplinary movement influenced by Cubism, Expressionism and Futurism. Poetic principles converged with those of non-representational art. With Vorticism the emphasis lay on the dynamism, movement, and the energy of the creative process, influenced by modern technological dynamism and non-representational conceptions of art. In his Vorticist phase, Pound redefined the image as "a radiant node or cluster, it is what I can and must perforce, call a vortex, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing" (EP VA 207).

In 1921 Pound left London for Paris. There he became acquainted with the French avant-garde; he flirted with the dada movement, and got to know Cocteau, Picabia, George Antheil, Gertude Stein and Hemingway, and the Roumanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. He started a friendship with e. e. cummings and continued helping Joyce. Early 1922, he revised Eliot's The Waste Land and made arrangements for its publication through the New York lawyer and art patron John Quinn. While in Paris, he also met the American violinist Olga Rudge with whom he formed a life-lasting liaison, which functioned as a parallel second marriage. Pound had two children. With Olga Rudge he had a daughter, Mary, born in the German Tyrol in 1925. One year later, his wife Dorothy gave birth to a son, Omar.



Pound's departure from London was prefaced by a farewell satire of his stay in the English metropolis Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). The poem is a critique of the modern age from the mid-Victorian period and of the fin de si?cle aesthetic heritage. It traces socio-economic and political pressures on a series of minor artistsÑfrom the pre-Raphaelites to the fin de si?cle decadenceÑset against the demands of an age. As a social satire, it analyzes the false values of modern civilization, perverted by materialism. It renders the effect of materialism on art and on the lives of a series of minor artists. Pound confronts the "art for art's sake" aestheticism with existential and social demands. While he indicts the modern mentality that subordinates life to money values, he equally analyzes the inadequate responses of an aesthetic that leads to escapist positions, hedonism and solipsism (Witemeyer).

Mauberley recapitulates the aspects of his earlier poems and lays out the basic techniques of the Cantos. The poem does not rest upon a persona and gives up the convention of a stable lyric voice and of a dramatic character. It also eschews traditional unities of viewpoint and emotional tone. In Mauberley, history acquires the archetypal patterns of a quest, and the modern reality is contrasted with the Homeric epic. This technique was also adopted by Joyce and Eliot. As in "The Seafarer", Pound continues the identification of the poet as Ulysses figure, foreshadowing the structural device of the Cantos. From a Vorticist perspective, Pound presents the shortcomings of aestheticism and Ôart for art's sake" doctrines. Existentially, Mauberley's failure is above all a failure to love. His vital shortcomings translate on an aesthetic level into the radical flaws of impressionism --the mimetic naturalistic technique and incapacity of controlling the artistic material by a transforming creative power.



Between 1915 and 1969 Pound worked on his grandiose epic poem The Cantos, the epic of modernity. The first Three Cantos appeared in 1917 in Poetry. Over the five decades he worked on them, the Cantos underwent a constant process of remaking and revision.

The Cantos are inspired by the Homeric epic, Ulysses' descent to the world of the dead, and Dante's Divina Comedia, with its epic quest of the soul in a pilgrimage that presupposes a descent to hell, purgatory and paradise. In form, however, Pound's epic is unlike any classical nor medieval model. His epic lacks Dante's vertical dimension, his Christian certainties, yet, in spite of its non-teleological dimension, it is full of mystic light and moments of illumination: "The 'magic moment' or moment of metamorphosis, bust thru from the quotidian into Ôdivine or permanent world'" (SL 210). In 1944, Pound confessed: "for forty years I have schooled myselfÉ to write an epic which begins ÔIn the Dark Forest' crosses the projected Purgatory of human error, and ends in light" (SP 137). Pound's journey across the dark seas of history is occasionally illuminated by visions of light, divine energies, and ecstatic states of mind.

In "Make it New" Pound defined an epic as "a poem including history" (LE 86). The shape of his new epic is polyphonic and defies formal completeness and proportion. It breaks down tradition, chronology and conventional units of time. With the ideogram as structural informing principle, Pound's Cantos brings together a multilingual, intertextual web of cultures. Written in more than twenty languages, The Cantos spans historically the age of the Italian Renaissance, the Chinese dynasties, the ancient world, the American Revolution and contemporary history. Just as it juxtaposes many historical periods in chaotic order, it also conflates many genres-- drama, satire, documentary material, lyrics, sermons, catalogues, elegies-- and verse forms, subverting traditional distinctions. History and myth fuse in a timeless, ideogrammic organization of culture, and parallel traditions belonging to different time periods.

The Cantos served as a model for a generation of postwar poets like Creeley, Duncan, Olson, Ginsberg. They equally provided a guide to postmodern poets as how to transgress conventions and how to include a range of disparate materials, traditions and history.


Social Credit and economics

In 1911, Pound made the acquaintance of A. R. Orage, editor of New Age, a socialist London weekly, who offered him a regular column where Pound was to publish his essay series on art and culture I Gather the Limbs of Osiris. He made almost 300 contributions in a decade. In the journalistic milieu of New Age, Pound got exposed to the doctrine of Social Credit. Its founder, Major C. H. Douglas, a former engineer turned economist harbored a hostility towards capitalist market system to which he opposed his solution of "social credit" which appealed both to right and left wing policies and ultimately led to the idea of state centralization. Douglas argued that the causes of poverty and war in capitalist society derived from an unjust distribution of capital caused by control and exploitation of credit by financiers. Because banks charged excessive interest rates for the credit and loans they gave, prices would inflate and be higher than the purchasing power, engendering social imbalance. Surplus value did not accrue to the productive entrepreneur but to the bankers who, in turn, brought about a growing indebtness of communities to banks. And social inequities ultimately led to military conflicts.

As a remedy, Douglas envisioned government enforced control of credits and interest rates, a nationalized economy in name of the public interest and common good, which alone could put an end to both poverty and war. Douglas theories on a nationalized centralized economy appealed to poets whose political options were antithetical: on one hand, Pound, who ended up supporting Mussolini's fascism, and, on the other, Hugh Mac Diarmid, a communist.

In 1917, Pound had adopted a staunchly anti-imperialist mood and he opposed the foundering of democratic institutions. During the next decades he was still committed to the ideal of a better society founded on principles of equality and freedom and his political utterances were opposed to a totalitarian ideology. Pound became outraged with the carnage of the First World War and became increasingly occupied with issues of social order and economics. He was convinced that the causes, which contributed to the military confrontation of 1914-8, were preparing the foundation of a future conflagration. Pound embraced Douglas's theory and spotted the essential evils of capitalist society in usura and the conspiracy of bankers, financiers and unscrupulous politicians, and endorsed the "social credit" program in order to restore the people's sovereign right to control money. Pound became more and more involved with the study of economics, since he believed in a writer's moral obligation and vital necess ity of creating a just economic system. He attributed the root cause of the war to the bankers' greed for profit.

At the foundations of his economic and political theories lies also his interest in the figure of Jefferson and Adams, and his understanding of Chinese history and Confucius. Pound expressed his political and economic principles in A. R. Orage's new magazine the New English Weekly, and in a series of books: ABC of Economics (1933), Social Credit: An Impact and Jefferson and/or Mussolini (1935), Guide to Kulchur (1938). Besides, his interest in economical philosophy, Pound devoted his efforts during the twenties and thirties to the writing of the Cantos, the translations of Confucius Ta Hio or the Great Learning (1928), and Confucius, Digest of the Analects (1937).

In 1924 Pound left Paris for Italy where he and Dorothy Shakespear lived in Rapallo until 1945 (with a stay in Sicily in 1925). Together with Olga Rudge who also moved to Italy, he actively organized music concerts and promoted study groups, manuscript research and helped establish the Center for Vivaldi Studies in Siena. During this period, he started a friendship with Louis Zukovsky and Basil Bunting, and met the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius whose theories on the organic evolution of cultures were to leave their lasting imprint on his mind. He also befriended the young James Laughlin, Pound's future publisher and founder of New Directions Press.

Italy brought Pound closer to the national socialist politics of Mussolini whom he deceivingly perceived as an idealized projection of Jefferson. Like Churchill and Shaw, Pound expressed his enthusiasm for Mussolini. Unlike them, he remained unwavering in his support to the end of his life.

Pound met Mussolini in 1933, an encounter rendered in Canto XLI. Mussolini apparently found the Cantos amusing, a pleasantry that convinced Pound that the Italian shared both an affinity with his own economic principles and a willingness to adopt Confucian principles as his state policy. Pound became enthusiastic of fascism and confused his own ideals with their distorted realization in Mussolini's Italy.

Yet, in spite of his overtly fascist allegiances, Pound defended the individual against the oppressive centralized power of the state. He falsely believed he was still battling for the prerogatives of the individual, not realizing that his devotion to fascism had compromised the very idea of freedom he was fighting for. Pound's delusion and lack of discernment parallels the confidence of many other left-wing writers who placed their faith in the communist program as a way of humanity's redemption from social injustice leading to an earthly paradise and a radiant future, while ignoring the crude reality of the gulags that undermined their theoretical premises.

In 1939, when the impending World War II became imminent, Pound expended all his efforts to avert it. He contacted a series of US Congressmen and even sailed to the US in a failed attempt to talk to president Roosevelt and prevent America from entering the war.

During the war years Pound delivered a series of broadcasts over radio Rome supporting Mussolini, criticizing Roosevelt's politics and condemning US intervention during World War II. His broadcasts were a confused mélange of social credit, cantos, usury, Confucius and anti-Semitic invectives. Because of the broadcasts the US government indicted him in absentia of high treason in 1943. In 1941 Pound had unsuccessfully tried to get a plane passage to the US. In 1944, the German occupants ordered him and Dorothy to leave Rapallo. After Mussolini's death, Pound turned himself in on several occasions to American troops, but was let free. On his third attempt, he got formally arrested and sent to the Disciplinary Training Center at Pisa on May 25, 1945. There he was completely isolated, kept in a wire cage exposed to weather inclemencies. He slept on the concrete and was given only one blanket. He was sixty years old. After almost three weeks he broke down, got moved to a tent and by Jul y he was granted a typewriter. In midst of his personal ruins, he translated Confucius and started working on the Pisan Cantos (LXXIV-LXXXIV), his literary testament. In November 1945, he was unexpectedly and secretly taken to Rome and flown to Washington, where he was re-indicted for more offenses. Four psychiatrists found him delusional and paranoid, and declared him mentally unfit to stand trial. He was confined for twelve years at St. Elizabeth Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Washington DC. The hospital became a pilgrimage site for various generations of poets, artists and friends: Marianne Moore, Allen Tate, Randall Jarrell, Robert Duncan, Thornton Wilder, Stephen Spender, Elizabeth Bishop, Katherinne Anne Porter, Robert Lowell.

During his imprisonment he continued battling for monetary reforms, he kept on translating Confucius' The Unwobbling Pivot & The Great Digest (1947), The Confucician Analects (1951) and working on The Cantos. Three Pisan Cantos received the Bollingen Prize in 1949. During these years various of his works appeared: Letters (1950), The Cantos (1948), Selected Poems (1949), Patria Mia (1950)-- a collection of articles published originally in The New Age 1912-1913, Translations (1953), Literary Essays (1954) with an Introduction by T. S. Eliot, Rock-Drill Cantos (1955). In 1958, thanks to the efforts of T. S. Eliot, Archibald Macleish, Robert Frost, Hemingway and other writers Pound was released in May. He was seventy-two years old. Before his departure he visited his home town Wyncote, Pennsylvania and his old friend William Carlos Williams. On July 9 he left the US for Italy by boat. He lived at various times with Dorothy, or with Olga Rudge in Sant'Ambrogio and Venice. He continued working on the Cantos, which appeared in various editions and issued forth a new anthology Confucius to Cummings (1964).

Pound outlived his companions. William Carlos Williams died March 4, 1963. In 1965, Pound attended the memorial service in London's Westminster Abbey for T. S. Eliot and called on Yeats' widow. In 1967 he visited Joyce's grave in ZY¨rich. In 1969 he paid the last honor to T. S. Eliot attending the opening exhibition of The Waste Land manuscripts in New York. He died in Venice on November 1, 1972 and was buried in the cemetery of San Michele. The same year of his death, as a token of rebirth and revival of his cultural legacy, Paideuma, the Pound journal was founded. Of the two important women of his life, Dorothy Pound died in 1973 and Olga Rudge survived her until 1996.


Based on:

  • Bornstein, George (1999), "Pound and the Making of Modernism" en Ira Nadel ed. The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound, New York, Cambridge University Press.
  • Lentricchia, Frank. Modernist Quartet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • Kenner, Hugh (1971), The Pound Era, Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Pound, Ezra. Literary Essays. New York: New Directions Press, 1935. (LE)
  • Pound, Ezra. Guide to Kulchur. New York: New Directions Press, 1970. (GK)
  • Pound, Ezra. Selected Letters 1907-41. Ed. D. Paige. New York: New Directions Press, 1950. (SL)
  • Pound, Ezra. Selected Prose 1909-65. London: Faber 1973. (SP)
  • Witemeyer, Hugh. The Poetry of Ezra Pound. Forms of Renewal 1908-20. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1969.
  • Zinnes, Harriet ed., Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts, New York, New Directions Press. (EPVA)