There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization.
(H. S. Mauberley (Life and Contacts) [Part I])
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound, born on October 30, 1885, in Hailey, Idaho, obtained an M.A. in Romantic literature after attending the University of Pennsylvania and Hamilton College from 1901 to 1906. His first job came as lecturer in French and Spanish at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1906, but his resignation was requested. In 1908 he left for England and lectured in medieval Romance literature at the Regent Street Polytechnic Institute in London. His first volume of poetry, A Lume Spento, came out in London in 1908. It was followed by Exultations and Personae (1909), Provenca (1910), Canzoni (1911), Ripostes (1912), Cathay (1915), Lustra (1916), Quia Pauper Amavi (1918), and his early masterwork, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920).
These books established his literary reputation and enabled him to turn to journalism for a living and, more than any other poet of his time, to promote the writing of others. His anthology Des Imagistes (1914) publicized the modernist verse of Richard Aldington, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), and F. S. Flint. Pound acted as unofficial secretary for the Irish poet W. B. Yeats from 1913 to 1916, as a correspondent for Poetry (Chicago), as co-founder, with Wyndham Lewis, of BLAST!, and as London editor of The Little Review from 1917 to 1919. In all these roles Pound promoted those whose poetic talents he admired. Almost single-handedly, Pound popularized ancient Chinese poetry by translating it for a wide audience. He befriended poets as diverse as Robert Frost and D. H. Lawrence. His most successful protégé was T. S. Eliot. Pound helped get Eliot's poems into print and, after leaving London for Paris in 1920 and becoming the Paris correspondent of The Dial (New York), not only assisted Eliot in editing The Waste Land but acted to have it published in that journal.
With his wife Dorothy Shakespear (1914), Pound used his base in Paris to create an avant-garde literary scene that attracted writers as diverse as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Pound's life-work, the Cantos, began in England and moved with him to France and then to Rapallo, Italy, where he settled permanently in 1925. The 116 Cantos were published in groups from 1917 to 1968.
During World War II, Pound supported Mussolini and broadcast on his behalf over Italian radio from Rome until 1945. These talks were anti-semitic and anti-capitalist. US forces arrested him for treason at Genoa that year and incarcerated him in an army training facility near Pisa. For some weeks he was kept in a smallish wire cage in the compound courtyard. About this time, he wrote the Pisan Cantos (New Directions, 1948), which won the Bollingen Prize the next year -- for good reason, because these are the poems of a great spirit. The Army then sent Pound to Washington, D.C., to stand trial for offences that might have warranted a death-sentence. The court judged him unfit, by reason of insanity, to stand trial and committed him to a mental institution, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, in Washington. Released in 1958, owing to lobbying of the literary community led by his many friends, and especially Robert Frost, Pound returned to Italy. He died on November 1, 1972, in Venice, and is interred in San Michele Cemetery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Pound had two children, Omar Shakespear, and Mary Rachewiltz. His second companion was Olga Rudge, with whom he lived for 12 years.
Given name: Ezra Loomis
Family name: Pound
Birth date: 1885
Death date: 1972