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The Rise and Fall of Ezra Pound
He was a prolific and unpredictable poet whose impact arguably influenced art, music and literature more than any of his crticis in the last 100 years. From Hemmingway, Yeats, Frost, and T.S Eliot; Pound’s passion never ended at his own pen and paper as he propelled his peers to the heights of achievement.
Not only did Pound explore the depths of music, art, and sculpting with his often torrid relationships with renowned artists, he tempted longitude and latitude lines residing in China, England and finally Italy. His humble beginnings in Hailey, Idaho only served as part of the architecture of his mythos.
Composing opera, trading barbs with Earnest Hemmingway and Picasso to the stages of classical music Ezra Pound made monument to modernism. The tragic motif began early as scandal drove Ezra from his position at Wabash College in Indiana leading him later to London. Eristic as he was erratic Ezra Pound set the standard for living outside the gravity of conformity and popularity. He eluded the powerful temptation to be a popularized voice vying for acceptance. Controversy often became the fodder that canonized his work and made the world his debate.
If Paris was his furnace then Italy was his trophy case as his Cantos was forged and the swath of his genius was felt. From economic theory, art, and political pathos his often self-inflicting views were voiced. A revolutionary in his own right he lived the ultimate paradox from literary genius to the verdict of criminally insane.
As Pound approached the latter years of his life his controversial yet often viable views began to grow to a global scale. His radio broadcasts from Rome rained down on the conscience of the American psyche garnering the title of treason. Forced back to the United States in 1945 his defense was insanity and Pound was confined to the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington D.C. where he remained for the next 13 years.
Ezra Pound’s long standing friendships within the artistic arena stood the test as many of his peers came to his defense. T.S. Elliot never wavered. In 1949 during his incarceration Pound was esteemed the Bollingen Award and many believed the Nobel was soon to follow. It never came but his freedom did in 1958 with the unrelenting support of Eliot and Carlos Williams. He quickly returned to Italy after his abrupt release amidst a maelstrom of controversy and protest.
A life of a reluctant recluse followed as Ezra often haunted the streets of Venice late into the night searching for the elusive end to The Cantos. He tirelessly tried to discover a “paradise” that his predecessors often looked for but failed to find as well. Friends surmised Pound faced his embattled conscience as he wrestled to come to terms with his life.
In the year of his untimely death the American Academy of Arts and Sciences denied a request from Pounds peers for the Emerson-Thoreau Medal in a 13 to 9 vote. Greatness often follows one in death and rarely abides with you in life as it did in the times of Ezra Pound. On November 1st 1972 on a blustery grey day in Venice the giant mind of Pound was put to rest. Mystic, poet, relentless artist; the mythos of Ezra Pound has never died. In his own words -
"The modern artist must live by craft and violence. His gods are violent gods. Those artists, so called, whose work does not show this strife, are uninteresting..." - Ezra Pound Oct. 30, 1885 - Nov. 1st, 1972
By Chad Taylor
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