Here’s a guy named Ezra Pound.
Here are two things you should know about him.
First, when he was alive, he was a world-class living cultural treasure.
Second, he was also a world-champion son of a bitch, who was hauled in for treason.
Born on the 30th of October, 1885, in what would become the state of Idaho, his old-money family moved in his early childhood to Philadelphia, where he spent his early years flitting from school to school and travelling with family members. This fed in him an interest in languages and an appreciation for European culture, and after a so-so couple of years in UPenn., and a disastrous fling at teaching at a school that didn’t appreciate him, he went to London, and started writing a book, The Cantos, where he began to really shine.
Oh, by the way, he managed to invent modernist poetry, under the name of Imagism. If you sigh over virtually anything called verse in English written from about 1910 onward, you owe a debt of thanks to this guy. Also read a book of his, The ABC of Reading,which gives you an idea of his teaching style. (It's worth it.) If that doesn't excite you enough, he was also the Godfather of Classic Rock Lyrics, as well as a good part of the American Song Book, as well. Cats, anyone?
Simply put, he blew through like a hurricane: he knew eight or nine languages, including Provençal, Anglo-Saxon and Greek (and some Chinese), was the life of every party, known to well, everyone in a stellar group of writers, painters, thinkers, was a topnotch editor/teacher and mentor, could write anything from a haiku to an epic, was on the staff of all the right magazines, and his adventures in London would fill volumes, until he discovered…Italy. And fell in love.
At this point, the story begins to get dark. He liked Italy OK…the landscape, the food, the culture and history…but also the politics. That is, he became a true red-white-and-green Fascist. As in Mussolini was his best bud on speed dial. It was horrible to watch…kind of like seeing your high-school class valedictorian becoming a junkie, and not being able to stop it, because when she did it it always seemed…well you know, kind of OK?
Anyway, the Italians let him stay throughout the War on the Italian Riviera in a nice house with beachfront property in Rapallo, near Genoa, where he had a lot of houseguests and worked on his book … and it looked like it would be well, kind of less than gracious if he didn’t write a few pamphlets for the Cause… At any rate, somehow the Italian government managed to tap into a deep well of pure unalloyed vitriol in him, and he responded with sheer hellish delight.
While waxing ecstatic in lectures about Ancient Rome and Dante and Petrarch, he wrote pamphlets, in between working on his book, he was on the radio (of course, he knew Italian), he was on newsreels. He used every inch and ounce of his literary and persuasive super powers to rail against America, Roosevelt, and the Allies. Also the Jews, which he called by every single epithet at his disposal (and he had plenty). Not that this wasn’t noticed — a magazine article during the war had the title “KILL EZRA POUND”.
Well, the War ended.
They found Pound. He was taken to a Guantanamo Bay-style enclosure and he wrote poems and part of his book on toilet paper in between hours-long interrogations. Sometimes he was outside for days.
Then they took him back to the USA...
He couldn’t be jailed — other inmates would harass him. He couldn’t be hanged — it would be like using the Mona Lisa to kindle a campfire. You couldn’t let him free. So, stretching the notion of being unfit to stand trial due to mental illness to the breaking point, they put him into the psycho ward of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C.
Where he lived for twelve years. When he proved not to be violent when not on paper, they gave him a room to himself, a typewriter, and a shut-in local library card. He wrote a lot of poems and worked on his book. He had plenty of visitors — even taught a few classes. The doctors couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with him, other than being a colossal egotist and a bit of a crook (and said so, in medicalese.) Local college students were assigned to see him, on a kind of field trip. He'd read their work, give a few encouraging words, and now and then, read from his works, or tell a few stories about life among the literary. The students wrote poems about how sorry they were for him. Yes, children, all the modern verse you like was ultimately influenced by an antisemitic war criminal.
Finally, people stopped being so angry at him, and they let him free, as long as he stayed out of the States. He found a house near Venice, which flooded during extra high tides, where he finally finished his book, and everyone lived happily ever after, until he died, in 1972.
On to what this has to do with Donald Trump