Unlike other biographical portraits of Ezra Pound, John Tytell’s brilliant and ambitious work offers an interpretive study that boldly confronts the emotional truths and psychological drama that formed this complex and controversial American poet. Neither an apology nor a condemnation, it presents instead a meticulous exploration into the mind and vision of a man who galvanized a generation and challenged an entire literary—and world—establishment. Although he enjoyed little fame in his lifetime, Pound’s notoriety and influence were enormous, as he arrogantly slashed away at convention and almost single-handedly brought about the twentieth-century revolution in poetry known as modernism. Ultimately, outrage and scandal turned his art to madness, and Pound’s last years saw him fall tragically silent.
It might seem that there is little more to be said about the life and personality of Ezra Pound, erudite poet, editor of The Waste Land, father of imagism and vorticism, helper of Joyce and many other major figures, the man who more than any other set modern poetry on its course. Yet in this incisive interpretive biography, based on interviews with those who knew him and a mass of published and unpublished Poundiana, Tytell examines the circumstances behind the poems and thereby generates new understanding of the man. In particular, he probes the "tragic fracture'' in Pound's volcanic personality, those elements of vanity, arrogance and naivete that led him to espouse cranky socioeconomic theories, hero-worhip Mussolini, vilify Jews and Western democracyand after World War II spend more than a decade in a mental institution. Pound's unusual capacity for friendship and generosity was matched by an astonishing capacity for hatred, and the latter marred his Cantos and finally ruined his life. Tytell wrote Naked Angels, a study of the Beat Generation. Photos.