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Ezra Pound (1885-1975)

Major 20th century poet, critic and translator, he supported the Imagists and Vorticist movements but, except for his 1946 trial for treason, remained virtually unknown to the general public mainly because of the intricate network of allusions and quotations present in his poems such as to discourage the common reader. He denounced usury as the origin of all forms of corruption and first symptom of the degeneration of all civilization. He exerted deep influence on the whole movement of modernist verse. Ezra Pound was born of Quaker parents in Idaho. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1908 he went to London where he was soon at the center of London literary life and here he made an important contribution to London's literary life through his advice and criticism to the development of the Modernist movement in literature and art. In 1915 he met T.S. Eliot and the two immediately began to campaign together against the last vestiges of the Romantic tradition, respecting its themes, techniques and facile emotionalism. In 1918 Pound went to Paris which in the post-war years was full of expatriate American artists and intellectuals. Here Pound met James Joyce, then still an obscure and neglected avant-grade writer. Pound arranged publication of Ulysses in Paris, and it was because of his efforts that this immensely difficult and complex work was immediately accepted as a masterpiece. In 1923, Pound made a trip to Italie, marking the beginning of a new phase in his life. He studied the history of the medieval and Renaissance States as part of his concern with the political and social basis of art. He felt that Italy had in the past created the conditions for the flowering of great art in an ideal form of courtly life, epitomized in Sigismondo Malatesta, theperfect example of an enlightenment ruler, patron of the arts, soldier and statesman. In 1929 he took residence at Rapallo (in those days still an unspoiled little village), where he lived for the next fifteen years. He was working at this time on the Cantos. He became a great admiter of Mussolini; he was rapidly anti-Semitic, he despised the Western democracies, feared Communist Russia and believed that the only answer lay in Fascism under leaders like Mussolini - Malatesta redivides. Following the outbreak of war, the Italian authorities invited Pound to give a series of radio broadcasts, expressing his opinions freely, which he did also attacking America. When the American armies reached Genoa in 1945, Pound was arrested and imprisoned in an army camp near Pisa, he was then taken to Washington, where he risked the death sentence for collaborating with the enemy. Instead he allowed himself to be declared insane and was committed to a mental hospital, for about 13 years. In 1958, on his release, thanks to a movement in his favor led by Robert Frost, he returned to Italy, where he died, in Venice, in 1972. He spent the last year of his life in almost unbroken silence.

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