Guest Author - Jordan McCollum
Born in Idaho in 1885, Ezra Loomis Pound would go on to change the shape of American poetry as part of the modernist, Imagist and Vorticist movements. However, his life would ultimately take him to Italy, where he played a key role in Mussolini’s dictatorship, which earned him a charge of treason from his homeland.
Pound was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Hamilton College. After losing his first teaching position, Pound moved to England, where he befriended W. B. Yeats, whom he regarded as the greatest poet alive at that time. Pound would marry Dorothy Shakespear, daughter of Yeats’s former lover Olivia Shakespear.
During this time, Pound was instrumental in promoting the Imagist and Vorticist movements, both of which contributed to the beginnings of English modernism. Many American poets, including Pound’s college friends, William Carlos Williams and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), also contributed to these movements which changed the future of American poetry.
Disillusioned by World War I, Pound left England for the continent, where he befriended other American expatriots. By 1924, he settled permanently in Italy with his parents, wife, lover, and daughter. During World War II, he aided Mussolini’s regime and became a propagandist for the Axis powers.
His writings and radio speeches, however, would earn him a charge of treason from his native country when they invaded Italy. Eventually captured by Italian partisans, Pound was turned over to Allied authorities. He stood trial in the United States for treason, but was found not guilty by reason of mental defect. Though many people argue that he was not, in fact, insane, Pound was sentenced to twelve years in St. Elizabeths Hospital, a mental institution.
Following his release, Pound returned to Italy, where he lived until his death in 1972. His most notable works included Cathay and The Cantos, although he wrote many more volumes of poems, essays, translations and even music (and two operas).
Read Ezra Pound’s Selected Poems or full Poems and Translations.