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This article is taken from PN Review 138, Volume 27 Number 4, March - April 2001.

The Voice of Pound Elaine Feinstein

Just a couple of years before Ezra Pound died in Venice in 1972, Nadezhda Mandelstam's Hope against Hope was published, and captured the imagination of the Western world. As I try to recall the quality of excitement with which we read the story of a group of brave people in Stalinist Russia - and the love between them - I realised that part of the fascination lay in the central assumption, shared by Akhmatova, Mandelstam and his wife and a very few others that: POETRY MATTERS; that it was a spiritual strength, just as a belief in God might be, and in some ways related to that. As I came to reflect on how rarely such claims are currently made for poetry in contemporary Western society, I began to wonder if some part of our unease did not go back to our bemused response to the voice of Ezra Pound.

The general case is widely known. Ezra Pound is arguably the most influential poet of twentieth-century Modernism, certainly among the most lyrical. He had chosen to live in Italy since 1924, under Mussolini, remained there during the Second World War, and broadcast for the Fascist government from Rome. When the Allies defeated the Italian Fascists, Pound was imprisoned in a detention camp in Pisa in 1945, and subsequently brought to trial as a traitor in the United States. In 1946, he was acquitted of treason, on the grounds that he was too mentally ill to plead, and ...


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