Ezra Pound Biography

Ezra Pound Biography

Ezra Pound is first remembered as a great modernist poet, but for some historians, he is also remembered as a traitor. Pound was living in Italy at the time of World War II and publicly wrote and spoke in favor of the Axis. He highly disagreed with the involvement of the United States, despite the fact that he was an American. Pound was indicted for treason in 1943, and when the war was over, he was brought back to the United States and found incompetent to stand trial. Instead, he spent twelve years in a mental institution. His writings, however, from that time appear to be from a sane person’s perspective. Even though Pound is a somewhat controversial figure in American history, his writing (particularly the epic Cantos) is considered a major contribution to American literature. 

Facts and Trivia

  • Pound was a great admirer of William Butler Yeats, believing him to be the greatest living poet at the time. They even lived together for a short time during World War I, and Pound briefly served as Yeats’ secretary.
  • Pound was married to Dorothy Shakespear, who was the daughter of Olivia Shakespear, a former lover of W. B. Yeats. A few years after marrying Shakespear, Pound began a romantic relationship with violinist Olga Rudge. The three carried on a romantic relationship until Pound’s death nearly fifty years later.
  • Pound was also a noted translator of Asian literature. He revived many Confucian works and brought Japanese poetry and drama into the forefront in America and Europe.
  • Music became a large part of Pound’s life in the 1920s. He is mainly responsible for bringing Vivaldi’s music back into popularity.
  • Pound was friends with Ernest Hemingway, who tried to teach Pound to box. Hemingway said of the experience, “I was never able to teach him to throw a left hook.”


(Masterpieces of American Literature)
ph_0111226294-Pound.jpg Ezra Pound Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Ezra Loomis Pound, one of the most influential and controversial figures in modern literature, was born in the mining town of Hailey, Idaho, in 1885. When Pound was only eighteen months old the family moved to Philadelphia, where his father, Homer, became an official with the United States mint—an occupation that perhaps influenced Pound’s later interest in economic and monetary matters. Pound made his first trip to Europe in 1898 with his great aunt; he would later live most of his adult life on the Continent, becoming a virtual exile from his native country. To some he would be more than that: He would be a traitor.

In 1901, Pound began college at the University of Pennsylvania, then completed his undergraduate degree at Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York, in 1905. He received an M.A. in Romance languages from Hamilton the following year, then a fellowship to travel in Spain, Italy, and the Provence region of France, where he gathered material for a book on the troubadours—the poets of courtly love who flourished during the late middle ages.

Returning to the United States, Pound was briefly an instructor in French and Spanish at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was dismissed after he allowed a stranded young actress to share his room in a boardinghouse.

Having determined, at age fifteen, to become a poet, Pound considered his dismissal a release, and he returned to Europe, writing and traveling, mainly in Italy. In 1908, he published his first books, a slim volume titled A Lume Spento (“with candles extinguished”) and A Quinzaine for This Yule. Both were heavily influenced by the troubadour poets and by the highly elaborate and artificial diction of late nineteenth century verse.

In 1908, Pound moved to London, where he remained until the end of World War I, establishing himself as a flamboyant personality as well as an aspiring poet. He affected earrings, flowing capes, and a dramatic red beard; his antics were wild and outrageous. Partially he sought to mask his own social insecurities, but he also wished to draw attention to his commitment to art. He became known by the major writers of the time, including Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, and William Butler Yeats, and he continued to publish poems, translations, reviews, and essays.

Around 1912, Pound developed a poetic doctrine which he termed Imagism, which put emphasis upon clear, specific language and poems stripped of excess ornament and useless words: The particular image was to be the new focus of verse. Within two years Pound had moved in another direction, that of “vorticism,” which was based on the concept of energy as symbolized by the vortex, a whirlpool or spiral form. Although Pound soon abandoned the formal aspects of these theories, their central tenets would remain part of his poetry for the rest of his life.

A third enduring influence from this time was that of Chinese poetic and philosophical thought. Believing that Chinese poets had used their...

(The entire section is 1241 words.)

Ezra Pound Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Pound’s impact on twentieth century literature and culture was twofold. First, he largely reestablished the artist as a figure of important, and often provocative, influence in contemporary events. Calling artists “the antennae of the race,” Pound implied that they not only anticipate society’s direction but also influence its course. Second, he provided poetic techniques that are able to accept and incorporate all that is vital of past art into the art of the present and future. All artists can draw upon and use the same themes, images, and words, so long as they revitalize them; in Pound’s words, as long as they “make it new.”

Pound articulated and demonstrated literary theories; he also assisted other writers. In the end, he staked his own reputation upon an immensely long and wide-ranging work, the Cantos, which has become the supreme example of modernism in twentieth century literature.

Ezra Pound Biography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

It seems appropriate that Ezra Loomis Pound should have been born on the frontier (in Hailey, Idaho, in 1885) and then moved to Philadelphia at the age of two, to be reared in the suburb of Wyncote until his education at the University of Pennsylvania Hamilton College (Ph.B. 1905, and M.A. 1906). Pound, though always presenting himself as the ultimate American, kept moving east, in search of culture, in a voyage that would lead him to England, then to France, finally to Italy, and in spirit all the way to China.

After his education in romance languages and philology—what today would be called comparative literature—he took a teaching position at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Given his scholarly bent, he might easily have become a teacher and a scholar, but a scandal involving Pound’s offering a night’s hospitality to a destitute woman ended his career at Wabash and, as it was to turn out, his academic career as well.

He left for Venice in 1908, published his first book of poems there, A Lume Spento, and then went to London, where he was to spend the next twelve years remaking literature. Tiring of London after World War I, he moved to Paris in 1921; in 1924 he moved again, to the lovely Italian seaside town of Rapallo. In his twenty years of residence there, he became increasingly enamored of the policies of Italy’s fascist ruler, Benito Mussolini. When war broke out between Italy and the United States in 1941,...

(The entire section is 422 words.)

Ezra Pound Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ezra Loomis Pound is a controversial poet, the lasting stature of whose poetry is greatly argued but whose importance as one of the central figures in the shaping of twentieth century literature is not. Pound was born on October 30, 1885, in Hailey, Idaho. His family moved eighteen months later to Pennsylvania, eventually settling in a suburb of Philadelphia. His first taste of Europe, where he would spend the majority of his life, came in 1898, when he traveled there for three months with his great-aunt.

Early in life, Pound declared his intention to learn all there was to know about the art of poetry. After studying at Hamilton College in upstate New York and at the University of Pennsylvania, Pound resigned a teaching job in 1907 to travel to Italy and seek his literary fortune. While living in Venice, he published at his own expense his first book of poetry, A Lume Spento. Armed with copies of the book for introduction, Pound headed for London, at that time the most vital center of literary activity in the English-speaking world. He especially wanted to meet the Irish poet William Butler Yeats; soon he was meeting regularly not only with Yeats but also with many other leading writers of the time. A brash American given to bohemian dress and loud declarations, Pound became a leading figure in the avant-garde attempt to revolutionize modern art and literature.

In 1912 Pound spearheaded the Imagist movement, the most visible product of a widespread attempt to rid modern poetry in English of embellishment and conventionalism. Although he edited the first anthology of Imagist poetry in 1914, he had already moved on by that time to involvement in vorticism, an art and literary movement in London that constituted England’s most important early contribution to the modern revolution in art. During this period, Pound was helping to change the common perception of literature through dozens of articles, promoting the work of innovators such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost, the painter and writer Wyndham Lewis, and the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, editing the important papers of Ernest Fenollosa, and all the while writing and translating poetry. In countless ways, Pound worked tirelessly and sacrificially on behalf of what he regarded as genuine art; many of the then-unknown writers whose work he...

(The entire section is 957 words.)

Ezra Pound Biography

(Poetry for Students)

Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, in 1885, and raised in Philadelphia, the son of Homer Loomis Pound and Isabel Weston Pound. He made his...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

Ezra Pound Biography

(Poetry for Students)

Ezra Pound was born October 30, 1885, in Hailey, Idaho. When he was two years old, his parents moved to Wyncote, a suburb of Philadelphia,...

(The entire section is 927 words.)

Ezra Pound Biography

(Epics for Students)

One of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century, Ezra Loomis Pound was born in Idaho in 1885. His family soon moved to...

(The entire section is 461 words.)