REVIEW × The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound

 The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound

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In 1945 the American poet Ezra Pound was due to stand trial for treason for his broadcasts in Fascist Italy during the Second World WarBefore the trial could take place however he was pronounced insane Escaping a possible death sentence he was sent to St Elizabeths Hospital near Washington DC where he was held for than a decadeAt the hospital Pound was at his most infamous and most contradictory He was a genius and a traitor a great poe. This is a fine little book about a period in the long and eventful life of a poet It's author Daniel Swift has a poetic touch to his prose and he manages in a mere 300 pages to bring alive the vanished world of politics and psychiatry in post WWII America land of the free and home of the brave This book is full of amusing information stories and recollections; perhaps my favorite is that early on Pound's poetry was considered as evidence for confining him to a loony bin he's too crazy to be tried for treason and later after his PISAN CANTOS won the Bollingen Prize in 1948 as evidence for releasing him these poems were not the work of someone who is insane

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In a lunatic asylum with chocolate brownies and mayonnaise sandwiches served for teaPound continues to divide all who read and think of him At the hospital the doctors who studied him and the poets who learned from him each had a different understanding of this wild and most difficult man Tracing Pound through the eyes of his visitors Daniel Swift’s The Bughouse tells a story of politics madness and modern art in the twentieth century. Lots of information on Pound's incarceration Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming lunatic asylum with chocolate brownies and mayonnaise sandwiches served for teaPound continues to divide all who read and think of him At the hospital the doctors who studied him and the poets who God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater learned from him each had a different understanding of this wild and most difficult man Tracing Pound through the eyes of his visitors Daniel Swift’s The Bughouse tells a story of politics madness and modern art in the twentieth century. Lots of information on Pound's incarceration

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T and a madman He was also an irresistible figure and in his cell on Chestnut Ward and on the elegant hospital grounds he was visited by the major poets and writers of his time T S Eliot Elizabeth Bishop Robert Lowell John Berryman Charles Olson and Frederick Seidel all went to sit with him They listened to him speak and wrote of what they had seen This was perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon convened by a fascist held. Very Interesting Account Of Pound's Days In The Nut House Where He Actually Had It Pretty Good; Certainly Better Than A Trial Treason For His Pro FascistAnti Semetic Broadcasts On Radio Mossilini During WWII I Wish The Book Had Provided More Of Those Radio Rants The Ones I've Heard Are Pretty Outrageous PL / I Structured Programming listened to him speak and wrote of what they had seen This was perhaps the world’s most unorthodox Its OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids literary salon convened by a fascist held. Very Interesting Account Of Pound's Days In The Nut House Where He Actually Had It Pretty Good; Certainly Better Than A Trial Treason For His Pro FascistAnti Semetic Broadcasts On Radio Mossilini During WWII I Wish The Book Had Provided More Of Those Radio Rants The Ones I've Heard Are Pretty Outrageous


10 thoughts on “ The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound

  1. says:

    This is a fine little book about a period in the long and eventful life of a poet. It's author, Daniel Swift, has a poetic touch to his prose and he manages in a mere 300 pages to bring alive the vanished world of politics and psychiatry in post WWII America ("land of the free and home of the brave"). This book is full of amusing information, stories, and recollections; perhaps my favorite is that early on Pound's poetry was considered as evidence for confining him to a loony bin (he's too crazy to be tried for treason) and later (after his PISAN CANTOS won the Bollingen Prize in 1948) as evidence for releasing him (these poems were not the work of someone who is insane).


  2. says:

    the story of Ezra Pound and his committment to an insane asylum ( the alternative would have been execution). It is a good story and is narrated well, but I am glad it finishes well, I guess in Italy. The hospital is now gone, and so is Ezra Pound, but the narration is good and interesting


  3. says:

    It's probably a necessary study of EzPo in the bughouse. But it makes for dreary reading.


  4. says:

    The Bughouse provides a new and valuable perspective on the Pound problem: the question of how to deal with the great art of a terrible person. To what extent, and in what ways, can we admire, or even love, the masterworks of the slaveowner or racist, the murderer or fascist? The problem is not as bad when the art has little or no direct relation to the artist’s reprehensible actions and/or ideas, but, in Pound’s case, the fascism and anti Semitism is right there in the poetry.

    Further, the issue is complicated in Pound’s case by the vexed question of his sanity. The numerous mental health professionals who examined him dramatically disagreed about this, and Swift acknowledges that “Pound’s madness—or not—will always remain an open question.” I was most intrigued to learn here that Pound’s defense attorney tried to use his poetry as evidence of his insanity!

    Many books on Pound have, of course, grappled with this issue of the man and his work, and no single study can possibly settle this intractable problem, but this book’s approach—looking at the postwar Pound primarily through the writings of the fellow poets who visited him in St. Elizabeths Hospital—makes a real contribution. In this respect, it is like M. Owen Lee’s useful book Wagner: The Terrible Man & His Truthful Art.


  5. says:

    Very Interesting Account Of Pound's Days In The Nut House, Where He Actually Had It Pretty Good; Certainly Better Than A Trial Treason For His Pro Fascist/Anti Semetic Broadcasts On Radio Mossilini During WWII. I Wish The Book Had Provided More Of Those Radio Rants. The Ones I've Heard Are Pretty Outrageous.


  6. says:

    Can't wait to get into this.


  7. says:

    It was with great interest that I purchased Daniel Swift’s new account of Ezra Pound’s time in St. Elizabeths Hospital. In 1983 I had published a similar book, The Roots of Treason: Ezra Pound and the Secret of St. Elizabeths. The strength of Swift’s new book is the heroic lengths to which he went to find people who were still alive who had had some relationship to Pound or to the hospital, even finding a woman who had played tennis with Pound than half a century earlier. Much of the book is an account of the author’s search. But ultimately the book is disappointing. Swift turns up much detail regarding things already known about Pound’s time at the hospital but nothing new. Pound remains a virulently bigoted and anti Semitic poet who sided with Italy and Germany in World War II and who was saved from a trial for treason by allowing his lawyer to claim that Pound was insane and then hiding out at St. Elizabeths Hospital. There is no evidence whatsoever that Pound was ever insane. When the director of the hospital, Dr. Winifred Overholser, so testified, as part of a plan to save Pound from trial, he was committing perjury. Pound’s problem, rather, was that he had a narcissistic personality disorder. Such individuals think only of themselves and view other people and events only in relationship to their own personal interest. Such individuals are not uncommon. Indeed, we recently elected an American President who is similar in many ways to Pound.


  8. says:

    Lots of information on Pound's incarceration.


  9. says:

    I enjoyed this and it is certainly readable and in parts very perceptive but was not sure in the end what his point was, if he had one. Each chapter was meant to be built on one of his poet visitors, Olson, Lowell, Seidel, etc, but this turned out to be a sort of gimmick for a few pages, and then he drifted off a little aimlessly into side issues. He'd obviously done a lot of research, and has an eye for the luminous detail, I'd recommend this for people who want a picture of the context of late Pound, but is only tangentially useful for understanding the poetry.


  10. says:

    The product of serious and sustained research, this book opens new perspectives on Pound's productive years in the asylum. The author seems most interested in the poets who visited him there, including Ollson, Lowell, Williams, and Eliot. Generally riveting,


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