FINE ARTS

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

Farrar. Nov. 2017. 320p. photos. index. ISBN 9780374284046. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374709587. LIT
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Swift (English, New Coll. of the Humanities, UK; Bomber County) calls writer Ezra Pound (1885–1972) "the most difficult man of the 20th century," documenting how he was a mass of contradictions during the debate about his alleged madness which, Swift concludes, will always remain an open-ended question. The author presents Pound's life during his years of confinement at Washington's St. Elizabeths hospital for the insane (1945–58) from the perspective of those who interacted with him there. Arrested and indicted for treason for his pro-fascist radio broadcasts in Italy during World War II, the poet was hospitalized to avoid trial and possible execution. While at St. Elizabeths, he was visited by literary greats as well as "disciples" for whom he held court. He was released when the indictment was dropped in 1958, thanks in large part to a campaign by creators in various fields, since he was never convicted of a crime and it was never determined whether he was mad or sane. Interspersed with Pound's story is a history of St. Elizabeths and mental health-care as well as commentary on some of his poems.
VERDICT Recommended for both scholars and general readers interested in this most enigmatic of 20th-century literary figures. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/17.]

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