This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound

This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound

This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound

This Difficult Individual, Ezra Pound

Excerpt

THE LOFTIEST rise of land in that territorial oddity known as the District of Columbia is occupied by an insane asylum. I have not been able to ascertain what humorist in the victorious Federal Government, immediately following the Civil War, selected this dominant ground for the site of St. Elizabeths Hospital, so that the employees of the various departments could look up, as they emerged from their offices at the close of the day, and see in the distance the solemn brick buildings of that Valhalla of the government clerk, the madhouse.

In 1949, I was introduced to the poet Ezra Pound, who was at that time an inmate of St. Elizabeths Hospital. There had been conflicting reports as to his mental condition; that is to say, the reports of the government psychiatrists, and the reports of everyone else who knew him. The hospital officials avoided the issue by describing him to prospective visitors quite honestly as a "political prisoner". In the interests of national security, Pound was being kept under guard by the Federal Bureau of Health, Education and Welfare. I also was a ward of the government. My status as a veteran of the Second World War had won me paid subsistence at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Washington.

In those days, the Institute housed the sad remnants of the "avant-garde" in America. It was inevitable that the name of Ezra Pound, who for nearly half a century had personified all that was . . .

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