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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Poetry as symptom



Ezra Pound, Locked Away | The American Conservative:

This is a fascinating article from the American Conservative, not a publication I normally peruse, let alone read. This article lured me in, the sort of click bait that snags me every time, an essay concerning the treatment of poet, translator, critic and would be culture overlord during his decade long stay in a mental illness ward rather than stand trial for his pro-Fascist broadcasts emanating from Italy during the 2nd World War. Pound even then was a controversial figure, as widely praised as he was condemned by literary tastemakers. Rather than place him on trial for treason, federal prosecutors dropped the hot potato and had him declared him insane, not fit to stand trial for any charges brought against him. Part of what makes this story interesting is the whole issue of who has the power to declare others mentally ill or otherwise unqualified for due process, as well as who has the power to define and enforce standards of normality and deviance.

 The discussions naturally filters into the idea of art being something less than an expression of imagination from which literate populations can benefit and instead be used to demonstrate states of mind that must be removed from the population and, following suit, any conversation about the nature of the nation. The hearing used to determine Pound's sanity accepted testimony from doctors, at the behest of the poet's lawyer, who swore that evidence of Pound's derangement required no further research than to the poetry itself. Only a madman would write this balderdash, and such a mind is the sort to insanely promote the efforts of a national enemy. It is a slippery slope that still concerns all of us who regard access to artists and the unfettered results of their imaginations a right.I encourage a read of this pertinent essay. The issues it raises, beyond the matter of Pound's sanity and resulting malignity , continues to deform the discourse on culture, politics, who gets to influence decisions over the way we collectively assess matters of art and social need through the way language is guided away from any sense of precision separate from a loaded agenda. This matter lingers like a festering wound the lot of us keep  picking the scab  from.

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