A Darker Side Of Ezra Pound

By Atom Bergstrom

Atom’s Blog


Donald Davie (Ezra Pound: Poet as Sculptor, 1964) wrote …

“Pound has made it impossible for anyone any longer to exalt the poet into a seer.”

The American lawyer Julien Davies Cornell (1910-1994) saved Ezra Pound’s life.

Ezra Pound was tried for treason, the penalty being “death, or, at the discretion of the court, shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined not less than $10,000, to be levied on and collected out of any or all of his property, real and personal, of which he was the owner of the time of committing such treason.”

Julien Cornell as well as many famous authors advised Ezra Pound to plead insanity, but they were preaching to the choir.

“Uncle Ez” was no dummy. He knew that his ongoing support of Mussolini and Hitler on an Italian radio station would likely earn him the death penalty, and that insanity was his best defense since he already had a reputation of being “eccentric.”

Robert Wernick (“The United States of America v. Ezra Pound,” Smithsonian Magazine, Dec. 1995) wrote …

“There was a special personal feeling of hatred abroad at the time against what were called ‘radio traitors,’ the men and women who had come sneaking over the air waves into people’s own living rooms to tell them that their sons and husbands and brothers were fighting and dying overseas in a war which, Pound assured them in 1942, ‘you are not going to win. None of your best minds ever thought you could win it. You have never had a chance in this war.'”

According to the Obituaries section of The New York Times (“Julien Cornell, 83, The Defense Lawyer In Ezra Pound Case,” Dec. 7, 1994) …

“It was the successful defense plea that the poet was insane that saved Pound from facing a possible death sentence for participating in pro-Fascist radio broadcasts to North America from Italy during the war. In those broadcasts, Pound denounced the Allied war effort and its political leaders and he praised Mussolini and Hitler.”

Tim Redman (Ezra Pound and Italian Fascism, 1991) wrote …

“Several critics have used Pound’s supposed insanity as a way of excusing his activities during World War II. I reject the claim that Pound was insane during this time for several reasons. First, although his writings of this period are at times eccentric, excessive, or even momentarily incomprehensible, they are ultimately consistent and reveal an understandable system of political and economic beliefs. However mistaken we may think these beliefs are, they do cohere if considered carefully and they deserve a fair and open-minded hearing. Furthermore, Dr. Jerome Kavka, who during his residency at St. Elizabeths examined Pound, has stated categorically on several occasions that Pound was not insane and would not have been confined to a mental institution had it not been for the treason charge hanging over him.

“Moreover, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey in his book The Roots of Treason: Ezra Pound and the Secret of St. Elizabeths, has examined the records relating to Pound’s medical case and has stated that there was no evidence of psychosis. In a popular account of his work, Torrey summarizes: ‘Hospital records of the Pound case that have recently been released and my own interviews with key people involved in the case persuade me that Pound was never insane and he was never unfit to stand trial.’ According to Torrey, Pound’s insanity plea was concocted by his friends (with his agreement) and by Dr. Winfred Overholser, the director of St. Elizabeths, to avoid the necessity of Pound’s coming to trial. Torrey also claims that Overholser made Pound’s stay pleasant and comfortable. Although I do not agree that there was a conspiracy among Pound’s friends, Torrey’s conclusion does accord with the available medical diagnoses, which, while admitting that Pound had suffered a physical breakdown in Pisa that adversely affected his mental condition, did not find him insane.”

Ezra Pound had already been pronounced as sane on two prior occasions — June 15 and 16, 1945, and July 17, 1945.

But he was found mentally unfit to stand trial on December 21, 1945, and sentenced to St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Washington, D.C.

According to Ezra Pound in Context (edited by Ira B. Nadel), 2010 …

“1958, April. Robert Frost and others, including T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and Archibald MacLeish, press for Pound’s release, which is granted to the seventy-two-year-old poet on April 18. Discharged on May 7, he departs for Italy on June 30, after visiting childhood home in Wyncote PA, and then William Carlos Williams in New Jersey. Arrives in Naples, Italy on July 9 with Dorothy and Marcella Spann, artist and disciple. Tells reporters ‘all America is an insane asylum’ and offers the Fascist salute.”

Back in my hippie days, I used to bug out when rednecks taunted, “America, love it or leave it,” but, in the case of Uncle Ez, my neck is red too.

Robert Wernick (“The United States of America v. Ezra Pound,” Smithsonian Magazine, Dec. 1995) wrote …

“Ezra Pound never got around to explaining just what he had done that was wrong. He was man enough to tell Allen Ginsberg at lunch in Venice in 1967 that he was ashamed of his anti-Semitism, which he called a ‘stupid suburban prejudice.’ Ginsberg was too much of a gentleman to remind him that he had never spent a day in a suburb since he left Wyncote, Pennsylvania, fifty-nine years before,”

'A Darker Side Of Ezra Pound' have 2 comments

  1. June 17, 2016 @ 10:53 pm Atom

    A fetus can be taught languages and mathematics while in the womb.

    It’s the original Head Start program, and compulsory government schooling has nothing to do with it.



  2. June 18, 2016 @ 12:25 am Atom

    “Until someone punches you on the nose, you don’t even know you exist.” — Marshall McLuhan



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