Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Solitary Volcano


Ezra Pound is a poet I've long wanted to explore.  I noticed the anniversary of his release from St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, DC, in 1958.  He had been detained immediately after World War II and held at U.S. military base for months in Pisa before being returned to the US, where he spent 12 years at St. Elizabeths. Of course, one can condemn his support of fascism and his anti-Semitic rants but one wonders if it was the political black eye Pound gave America that motivated this treatment, not his positions, as many a corporate head, including our dear Henry Ford, had supported Hitler before the war and was a known anti-Semite.

I was looking for biographies and came across this one by John Tytell.  There is a newer one published in 2007 by David Moody.  Here is a copy of Pound's Letters in Captivity.  Nice to see that Pound is included in the Library of America, which he richly deserved.

11 comments:

  1. What an interesting question. I'd never thought of that.

    Read Hitlerland. It's eye opening, albeit very difficult to read about how normalized the relations between the U.S. and Germany were in those early years -- even after the invasion of Poland. Most saw Hitler as impotent (literally and figuratively) and no significant threat. But they loved the cleanliness and order of the German cities. Does give one pause.

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  2. It sounds to me that Ezra got a bum rap. Of course, it was Truman who was president at the time, and I guess he wasn't taking any guff from anyone, especially a "fascist" modern poet. Reminds me a little of Thomas Paine who found himself in a French jail cell awaiting execution only for Jefferson to bail him out with Monroe as his emissary. In this case, it was Pound's fellow expats who appealed to authorities.

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  3. I think it was Kevin Phillips who got into the Hitler connection in the Bush family. Many of the American industrialists at the time supported Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. Orwell complained bitterly of the Anglo-American support for these fascists in Homage to Catalonia.

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  4. I don't remember coming across any Bushes, but I'm sure they were there. Everyone wanted to go to Europe, and particularly to Germany. Even the young JFK was there writing home.

    The writer focuses mostly on the correspondents in residence there since they left such a detailed track record, but there were lots of Americans who wrote home with positive or, at best, neutral feelings about what was happening there. Even Howard K. Smith related later about turning a Jew away thinking he was exaggerating his situation. Very depressing to read.

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  5. Another good book in this regard is The Coming of the Third Reich, in which Richard Evans describes the climate that led to the rise of Hitler. His second book is The Third Reich in Power, but I haven't summoned the nerve to read it.

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  6. Nagorski speaks highly of William Shirer, and his book on the Reich. Shirer appears to be one of only a handful who fully appreciated what was going on around him.

    I agree with you about summoning the nerve to read any of this. I dreaded having to read Hitlerland, but am glad I did. An easy read -- if you can say that about a topic like that -- and fascinating portrait of America/ns.

    And they really did refer to living in "Hitlerland" in some of their correspondence.

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  7. The link below is to a very lengthy online article written by Ellen Cardona about Pound:

    http://www.flashpointmag.com/card.htm

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  8. The link below is to transcripts of some of his Italian radio broadcasts:

    http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/radio.htm

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  9. And the link below is to a large batch of audio files of Pound reading selections of his poetry:

    http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Pound.php

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  10. Thanks for the links Rick. It will be interesting to hear the Italian radio broadcasts.

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  11. That second link is to transcripts of two broadcasts. I have only found one audio of one of the infamous Italian broadcasts and it's very scratchy.

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