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262 CHAPTER 28 C’est moi dans la poubelle Ezra Pound’s Tragic Years The final volume of A. David Moody’s monumental biography of Ezra Pound may well be the most absorbing. Here, in arresting detail, Moody tells the painful story of Pound’s wartime activities in Fascist Italy, including his notorious anti-Semitic broadcasts for Rome Radio, his arrest by the US military in 1945 and detention at the Disciplinary Training Center at Pisa, his removal to Washington to stand trial for treason (only to be declared unfit to do so on grounds of insanity), and his resultant confinement in St. Elizabeths Hospital where he was to spend twelve years. On his release in 1958 and return to Italy, there was a decade of illness and decline, and a final turn to silence. What makes the Pound story so fascinating is that it was in the prison camp at Pisa that he wrote what many consider his greatest book of poetry, the Pisan Cantos, which won the first Bollingen Prize (1948), setting off a firestorm in literary circles that continues to this day. Again, it was at St. Elizabeths that Pound produced the Rock-Drill and Thrones sections of the Cantos, as well as his Confucian translations and commentaries. St. Elizabeths was where he held court to many of America’s then rising poets, from Charles Olson to Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. Back in Italy in the 1960s, he found himself a cult figure, sought out by poets from around the world who considered him, in the words of the Jewish Allen Ginsberg, “the greatest poet of the age.” Volume 3 also brings Pound’s personal story to its climax. The forced wartime ménage à trois with his wife Dorothy and mistress Olga Rudge (the mother of Review of Ezra Pound Poet: A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Vol. 3: The Tragic Years, by David Moody. Times Literary Supplement, November 6, 2015: 5–6. C’est moi dans la poubelle 263 his daughter Mary) ended abruptly with Pound’s arrest. For the moment, Dorothy had won: she moved to Washington, visited her husband every day and was given control of his financial affairs. Documents make clear that after the first year or two, she was quite satisfied to have her husband remain at St. Elizabeths , where he was safe from Olga and had none of his usual financial worries. Pound himself was resigned: at St. Elizabeths he developed new friendships as well as love affairs: first with the Bohemian, drug-addicted Sheri Martinelli and then with a twenty-three-year-old schoolteacher named Marcella Spann, who accompanied the Pounds on their return to Italy, only to have Dorothy and Mary conspire to ship her back to her native Texas. Pound, who was deeply in love with Marcella, railed against his loss and was miserable both at home in Rapallo and then at Brunnenburg, a castle above Merano in the South Tyrol where his daughter Mary de Rachewiltz and her husband Prince Boris de Rachewiltz lived. In 1962, Olga, who had broken with Pound when, on her single visit to St. Elizabeths in 1955 she found him in the arms of “La Martinelli,” came to the rescue: Pound was to spend the rest of his life in her loving care. In its broad outlines, the story has been told many times—by the early biographers Charles Norman (1968) and Noel Stock (1970), by the psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, by Hugh Kenner in his incomparable The Pound Era, and by the poet’s later biographers John Tytell (1987) and Humphrey Carpenter (1988). But Moody has had access to much new or previously unknown archival material , and he provides explicatory chapters on each of the major volumes of the ongoing Cantos. His is thus the most authoritative biography to date. The difficulty is that Moody has an axe to grind. His argument, stated quite baldly in the preface, is that Pound was “a flawed idealist . . . who, in a time of war, carried to excess his exercise of the rights and freedoms of a United States citizen, and who, in consequence, suffered the loss of both his freedom and his civil rights.” The poet was “perceived as a traitor and a Fascist, when in truth he was neither. Beyond that, as the deeper injustice, there was the accident that it was those whom he trusted to support and aid him who were responsible for his being incarcerated for twelve...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826360533
Related ISBN
9780826360526
MARC Record
OCLC
1129833434
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2019-12-09
Language
English
Open Access
No
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