Pound in Rapallo

November 1: EzraPound died on this day in 1972, two days after his eighty-seventh birthday.During the fourteen years which followed his release from confinement in St. Elizabeth’smental hospital, Pound did little writing. Over the last decade or so he alsostopped speaking, though the silence seemed to enhance his fame and underscorethe few comments he did make:

  • “I know nothing at all…. I have even forgotten the name of that Greek philosopher who said that nothing exists, and even if it did exist, it would be unknowable, and if it were knowable, it would be incommunicable.”  (from an interview at age seventy-eight)
  • “I did not enter into silence, silence captured me.”  (from an interview at age eighty)
  • “At seventy, I realized that instead of being a lunatic I was a moron.”  (from comments made at age eighty-two to Allen Ginsberg)

One of Pound’s last major interviews was in 1960, conductedby the American poet Donald Hall for the ParisReview. Hall found Pound warm, witty, and forthcoming, and capable ofdealing with the many “pilgrims and exploiters” who knocked on hisdoor:

Unknown visitors came—pilgrims and exploiters—including onewho pitched a tent outside the house. Many would be visitors, Olga [Rudge]observed, worshiped Pound without having read his poetry; she told one suchthat she would procure a visit if he could recite one line of Ezra Pound’s. Hecouldn’t. Others wanted to read Pound their own poems and take his praise awaywith them. Others were academics looking for an imprimatur to their books onPound. Others were promoters announcing that they had already booked a hall inLondon for a reading; they flashed airline tickets.

An acquaintance of mine, finding himself in Venice, soughtout the house and knocked at the door. He expected to meet Olga Rudge and beturned away. To his astonishment the door opened to reveal Ezra Pound inbathrobe and slippers. In his confusion the young man burbled, “How areyou, Mr. Pound?” Pound looked down at him for a moment out of the hauteurof his silence and then uttered a single word in the melody that sometimesresembled that of W. C. Fields. “Senile,” he said. The wit belied theword.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.