Poetry News

Quality Time With 'Ezra's Boys'

By Harriet Staff
Daniel Swift, Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound, cover

Literary Hub posts an alarming article by Daniel Swift, an excerpt from his recent book The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017). It's a fascinating description of a sect of "neo-fascists" based in Italy, who are crazy about modernist poet Ezra Pound. "They call themselves 'i ragazzi di Ezra'—Ezra’s boys—" Swift writes, "and they speak in a collective 'we.'" Swift visited Italy in a few years ago and met with Adriano Scianca, "the militant in charge of culture" (yes, an actual title).  From there: 

When I emailed them to set up the meeting or to follow up after, their replies were always unsigned and the addresses generic. They speak like the chorus in an ancient play, and as Adriano told me their history it sounded like a modern myth. They began by printing 15,000 stickers with the word zetazeroalfa in block black letters, and they stuck them on walls all across Rome. This was, Adriano explained, to make the people wonder. Could this be a new brand of car, a TV show? It was a punk rock band, who play concerts in abandoned train stations and whose audiences beat themselves in a dance they call the “cinghiamattanza,” the belt massacre.

On the day after Christmas 2003 a few of the boys began to squat in an abandoned government building not far from Rome’s main train station, and this is where we met that day. When they arrived, they found that the lights had been left on for a decade, Adriano told me, with a shrug at the waste of governments. They had occupied buildings before, but this was the first one inside the city of Rome, and with it came a new name and a new purpose. Soon they began to arrange conferences. Since the start of the occupation there have been a hundred of these, Adriano explained: four or five on Pound, and others on themes dear to Pound, such as money, housing and the sovereignty of nations. They ran one on Jack Kerouac to mark the 40 years since his death, and another on Japanese tattoos. They opened 33 new places across Italy last year, Adriano told me: bookshops, gyms, pubs. Here they conduct what he calls meta-political activity. He added: in those places we pay the rent.

Read on at Literary Hub.

Originally Published: November 7th, 2017