Ezra Pound: Not always the nicest guy

By Harriet Staff

Helen Carr writes for The New Statesman about the perpetual problem of Ezra Pound’s personality and political affiliations. How do we justify such great poetry written by a man who held some not-so-great positions?

"How do you account for Ezra?" W B Yeats asked the poet Richard Aldington over spaghetti one evening in the northern Italian resort of Rapallo. "Here is a man who produces the most distinguished work and yet in himself is the most undistinguished of men." Aldington had no answer, though he thought accounting for Ezra was even more complicated than Yeats's neat antithesis suggested. For all Pound's gifts, his work was often "abrupt and barbarous", yet in spite of his "throwing down of fire-irons and sputtering of four-letter words", he could be "a pleasant companion and the most generous of men".

Carr, unfortunately, does not answer the question of what to do with Pound, but does provide us with a nice summary of the man’s exceptional life and work, which in itself marks a beginning toward considering those bigger questions.

Originally Published: March 10th, 2011