Friday, April 26, 2013

Ezra Pound On Trial

Pound On Trial.

Pound’s career was driven by his own belief in the absolute centrality of poetry to Culture and the absolute cultural importance of the (genuine/professional) capital P Poet.

In Geoffrey Hill’s words, Pound ‘is vulnerable to accusations that he naively or willingly regarded his war time broadcasts as being in some way traditionally privileged by his status as a poet, ‘boasting of the sanctity of what [he] carried’; an attitude at best archaic and worst arrogantly idiosyncratic; oblivious of, or indifferent to, the ‘real world’ which lies “out there’, where things (and people) get done” (‘Our word is our bond’, Collected critical writings p146/7)

Reading the transcript of the trial in Julian Cornell’s ‘The Trial of Ezra Pound’(1966),  one can watch the train wreck of the collision between his ideas and those of the “real” world where “people get done’. 

Pound had been taken to America to be tried for treason. The Government, or technically the Department of Justice, contested his Lawyer's claim that Pound was not 'able to participate with counsel in the trial of a criminal case, and is not in a position to understand the full nature of the charges against him'.  Or in plain terms, was not sane enough to stand trial.

The following conversation occurs in the transcript (p208): The answers are from Dr. Joseph L. Gilbert, chief psychiatrist at Gallinger Municipal Hospital, one of four psychiatrists who had examined Pound and had unanimously agreed he was not in a fit mental state to stand trial. He is being cross examined by Mr. Anderson, representing the Unit States Government.

Q: And what are delusion of grandeur? A. Well, a delusion –I will have to break that up a little bit-is an idea not based on fact, not appropriate to the occasion, and not amenable to argument say, so a delusion of grandeur would be an idea of exaggerated importance, exaggerated self-esteem in his relation to the community, to the state, to the world. As in this particular case.

Q. In the case of a great person thinking themselves as great, would you say that is a delusion of grandeur? A. It may of may not be.

Q. And in case Mr. Pound thinks he is a great poet, would say that is delusion of grandeur? A. No. I did not consider that one of his delusions of grandeur.

Q. What did you consider? A. Well his rather fixed belief that if certain circumstances had arisen that he would have been able to stop the formation of the so called Axis and, therefore, have avoided the World War, and that if it had been possible for his writings to have reached the public, and especially important public officers throughout the world that the same thing would have happened, that the Axis would not have been formed…and thereby the World War would have been prevented, and there was a plot or conspiracy in certain quarters to prevent these writings from reaching the public [my ellipsis]…and that by his writings, his broadcasts, he was defending and saving the Constitution of the United states, that his economic theories were the last word in economy in the world, or in the economic field; that he believed he was being brought to America , after his imprisonment in Italy, for some use rather than-[INTERRUPTION IN ORIGINAL]
Q: Rather than for trial? A. Rather than face an indictment or trial…

Trivial pursuit question: How many ‘Literary theorists” or  ‘cultural critics’ claiming the centrality and importance of their own self importance would be classifiable under that definition of “delusional”?

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