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< Ezra Pound >

(1885 - 1972)

Short Biography

Ezra Pound old

Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972) was born in Hailey, Idaho, and grew up in Wyncott, Pennysylvania. His father was an assayer in the US Mint. 

In 1897 (12) Pound entered Cheltenham, a military college close to his home, and in 1900 (15) enrolled at the University of Pennysylvania. Here he met fellow poet William Carlos Williams, who reckoned him unpopular, conceited and affected. He had an adolescent romance with Hilda Doolittle (known as HD), and in 1903 (18) enrolled in Hamilton College in New York State. After he graduated in 1905 (20) he returned to the University of Pennysylvania to study English Literature and Romance Poetry, gaining his MA in 1906 (21). 

He then visited Spain on a fellowship. 

In 1907 (22) he was appointed instructor of French and Spanish at Wabash College in Indiana, but outraged the moral propriety of the institution when a male impersonator was found in his rooms one night.

Italy, London and first publications
He was dismissed, and travelled first to Italy, where he published his first book of verse In Lume Spento (1908, 23) at his own expense, then to London, where he was befriended by W.B.Yeats. Between 1908 (23) and 1911 (26) he published six volumes of verse, mainly in the mediaevalising style of Browning and the Pre Raphaelites

The Imagist and Vorticist movements
From 1912 (27), under the influence of contemporary poets Ford Madox Ford and T.E.Hulme, he modernised his style, and became a moving force in the avant garde art scene, participating in first the Imagist and then the Vorticist movements, and working closely with the poet T.S.Eliot

Ernest Fenellosa
He was appointed literary executor to Ernest Fenellosa, and his work on Fenellosa’s translations of classical Chinese verse helped him to define his own ‘imagist’ poetic method. His free translations of Chinese poetry were published in Cathay (1915, 30). 

In 1914 (29) he married Dorothy Shakespear. 

Further publications and Olga Rudge
He published two further volumes, Homage to Sextus Propertius (1919, 34) and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1921, 36), before leaving London for Paris, where he met the violinist Olga Rudge, who was to bear his child. Here, he also encouraged the author James Joyce to come to Paris from Trieste, helping his family to settle, and introducing him to the future publisher of his novel Ulysses, Sylvia Beach.

The Cantos
He wrote to the author James Joyce in 1917: 'I have begun an endless poem, of no known category ... all about everything.' A few Cantos appeared in various publications in the following years, and a Draft of XVI Cantos was published in an edition of ninety copies in 1925, followed by a Draft of XXX Cantos in 1930, in which he shows the poet as an Odysseus wandering amongst the dead, seeing patterns of the eternal in the everyday. The first commercial editions appeared in 1933.
During this time, he became progressively more interested in economic matters, believing he had found a remedy to the evils of unchecked capitalism in the theories of Major C.H.Douglas, who argued for a system of ‘social credits’. He also believed that he could influence Mussolini to implement these ideas in Italy, and he began to attack ‘usury’ as the central problem in capitalism, during the course of which attacks his language became strongly anti-semitic. Further cantos were published between 1934 (49) and 1940 (55). 

Italy and the defense of fascism
He moved to Rapallo in Italy in (1924, 29), and devoted a great deal of energy to defending fascism. During the Second World War, he made a series of 120 broadcasts on Rome radio to Allied troops, almost incoherent in nature and strongly anti-semitic in tone. 

Arrest and incarceration
He was arrested in 1944 (59), and incarcerated in a Disciplinary Training Centre near Pisa. He was kept here for six months until his repatriation to the United States, where he was to stand trial for treason. The trial was avoided, however, when he was certified insane. He was consigned to the St Elizabeth Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Washington DC, where he remained until 1958 (73). His incarceration produced further poetry : The Pisan Cantos (1948, 63), for which he controversially received the Bollingen Prize in 1949 (64), Rock Drill (1955, 70) and Thrones (1959, 74), and also a series of translations from the Confucian classics. 

Return to Italy and death
On his release in 1958 (73) he returned to Italy, where he died in 1972 (87).

Ezra Pound : Links

Song in the Manner of Housmann

The Bath Tub




Ezra Pound young
Ezra Pound incarcerated
Ezra Pound disembarking in Naples after his release from St Elizabeth Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Looks like it did him some good.


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