Ezra Pound is credited with defining and promulgating modern poetry. He abandoned traditional metrical schemes as well as rhyming, yet saw himself as revoicing the deepest intent of historical poetry, both eastern and western. Dante, the French Troubadours, and the Anglo-Saxons were of particular interest to him from the West, and Confucius as well as certain genres of drama and poetry from the East. His friends and proteges were a virtual who’s who of twentieth century literature. In parallel, he was increasingly drawn to fascism as an economic and political solution, so much so that when the jews won WW2, he was imprisoned, cast for 12 years into a mental institution, and only permitted to spend the last decade or so of his life in relatively free seclusion by the intervention of fellow literati. Obviously, a character worthy of our study.
Born in 1885 in Idaho, his formative years were spent around Philadelphia. His parents were Presbyterian, but Ezra gradually appears to have abandoned the faith in favor of a reversion to classical paganism. Antisemitism and Bible-rejection were coupled.
The jew book is the poison
that since A.D. has bitched everything it got into.
Which was the egg, and which the chicken, is a question that would be an interesting point of discussion some day. For example, another motive for his rejection of Christianity was based on themes that we would ratify, while denying the connection. He wrote to Santayana, “Trouble with your Xtianity is that it is a sham cult cut off from agriculture. Steam roller no substitute for plow” (p. 299). In other words, Pound was an agrarian: but he needed to discover the Southern agrarians. It is an example of how we must distinguish layers in a man’s thought, and not be simplistic.
Like so many of the literary figures of that day, he became an expat to Europe, landing first in London, 1908-1920, then Paris, 1920-1924, then Italy, 1924-1945. Though starting out in London with no great reputation to build on, he threw his weight around, gradually becoming an icon of the salons. Influenced by the polymath T. E. Hulme, Pound launched the movement he dubbed Imagism. The idea is to use words in a stark way to create an image that mediates a non-verbal feeling.
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Little by little, he got his poetry and essays published. Part of his success was by the sheer force of his eccentric and domineering personality, which led to a large swath of (especially, but by no means exclusively, female) poets, musicians, artists, and patrons forming his wake. Yet despite an insuperable personal arrogance, and rhetoric that was violently dismissive of those he marked as cultural cretins, it is equally clear that he was deeply altruistic, often sacrificing what could have been personal aggrandizement and fortune in service of launching the careers of others. T. S Eliot and James Joyce, and later even Hemingway to an extent, owe their meteoric careers to Pound’s coaching and advocacy. Indeed, Hemingway later wrote (p. 193),
So far we have Pound the major poet devoting, say, one fifth of his time to poetry. With the rest of his time he tries to advance the fortunes, both material and artistic, of his friends. He defends them when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. He loans them money. He sells their pictures. He arranges concerts for them. 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 and he witnesses their wills. He advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide. And in the end a few of them refrain from knifing him at the first opportunity.
Nor was it only in literature. He befriended artists and lobbied for acceptance of modernist tendencies there as well.
Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth,
Crushed strawberries. Come let us feast our eyes!
He proposed the name Vorticism for the modernist art movement coming out of his circles. Unfortunately, a new vortex soon appeared in form of the Great War, killing some in his circle, ruining others, and exploding Europe spiritually into fragments. We zoom past in a few words; only silent pondering can begin to capture the devastation of it to that generation.
And if you ask how I regret that parting:
It is like the flowers falling at Spring’s end
—–Confused, whirled in a tangle.
What is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking,
There is no end of things in the heart.
He was a true Renaissance man, and there are few branches of human knowledge in the liberal arts that he did not throw himself into with great interest and energy. In economics, he took a shine to “social credit theory,” which seemed to him to present a way for nations to throw off the shackles of banking to benefit both the common man and the artists.
The yidd is a stimulant, and the goyim are cattle
in gt/proportion and go to salable slaughter
with the maximum of docility.
Here is a recording of him reading one of his own poems, on Usury. Usury itself obviously functions as something of an Image for an approach to life that is exclusively bottomline profit-oriented. This trajectory, along with perception of a truly artistic energy at work, led him to recognize Mussolini as a genius by which the Italian people could collect themselves as a great people, as well as provide a model for other peoples to do the same. Living by this time in Italy, he thrust himself into the acquaintance of the Duce, and eventually, was given the opportunity to give talks in English on Italian radio.
It was this activity which, after the war, gave the victorious kikenregime the excuse to arrest him for “treason.” He was mercilessly thrown into solitary confinement in a cage that was heavily reinforced with steel bands “because of the possibility that Fascist sympathizers might try to free him” (p. 277). (Yeah, right.) Hustled back to America, he faced a potential death penalty if convicted. Instead, sympathetic lawyers and psychiatrists got him excused from facing trial on grounds of insanity, the cost of which was indefinite detainment in the St. Elizabeth’s compound in Washington, D.C.
If we take the spin of this biographer as fair — and I am not competent to judge one way or the other — Pound played along with this model, even though neither he nor anyone else really thought it was the case. The hebishkeitsreich, which never forgives an insult to their holy personages, continued to pour forth venom. Arthur Jew Miller of Death of a Salesman fame opined that “Pound’s vilifications were worse than Hitler’s” (p. 289). Norman Jew Rosten “said he was a Fascist hireling who had contributed to the murder of the innocent.” Albert Jew Maltz noted that “if Pound had been a businessman, factory worker or physician, no voices would be raised on his behalf.” (Note that none of this reviling builds at all on the facticity of aiding and abetting the enemy: it is purely personal vindictiveness.) Bennett Jew Cerf, a founder of Random House, tried, Communist-style, to eliminate him from the canon by deletion, and backed off only after a libel suit was filed (p. 299). A literary award was granted to Pound in 1948, and Sen. Jacob Jew Javits demanded an investigation (p. 303)!
“It ain’t never been done, not never. Even the five families will run for cover,” Tom Hagen warned. Even Pound’s friends and family rued what he had done.
But what had he done? His radio talks were desultory and rambling, and thematically in keeping with the thrust of his entire life. No serious person, I say, could honestly believe that the talks had undermined America’s war effort against Italy. Pound himself regularly challenged them to point to even a single person that had both heard his talks and understood them. But he had taken on the nationless masters, and that is a formidable thing to do.
For twelve years he dwelt in the nuthouse, holding court with a large and interesting stream of visitors, including poets and scholars both established and new. At length, the administration changed parties, and public interest shifted elsewhere. The lawyers, with help from Hemingway, Eliot, and Robert Frost, negotiated his release and the dropping of charges. The understanding was that he would return to Italy, which he did. The understanding was that he would stop opining on political matters, which he did not. But he was an old man by now, and he slowly faded away, still surrounded by women, and died in Venice in 1972.
A blown husk that is finished
—–but the light sings eternal
a pale flare over marshes
—–Where the salt hay whispers to tide’s change.
In his poetry, there is a music and a conflating of images that is sometimes quite affecting even to amateur me. Questions remain. With the abandonment of rules of structure, is a Wissenschaft of poetry any longer possible? If not, how is a people’s canon managed? Surely not merely majority vote. One thing is certain: we know who manages our canon now, and how. There is, however, a gleam of gold waiting to break through the dark overcast: if Jehovah our God should be pleased one day to deliver our people from this subservience to the (self-)Chosen Rulers, just think what other buried treasures there may be out there waiting to be discovered.
John Tytell. Ezra Pound: The Solitary Volcano (New York: Doubleday, 1987).