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Daniel Swift. The Bughouse. The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra PoundLondon: Harvill Secker, 2017. 

 

 

Bughouse

In 1945, the American poet Ezra Pound was due to stand trial for treason for his broadcasts in Fascist Italy during the Second World War. 

Before the trial could take place, however, he was pronounced insane. Escaping a possible death sentence, he was sent to St Elizabeths Hospital near Washington, DC, where he was held for over a decade.

At the hospital, Pound was at his most infamous, and most contradictory. He was a genius and a traitor; a great poet and a madman. He was also an irresistible figure and, in his cell on Chestnut Ward and in the elegant hospital grounds, he was visited by the major poets and writers of his time. T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Charles Olson and Frederick Seidel all went to sit with him. They listened to him speak, and wrote of what they had seen. This was perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon: convened by a fascist, held in a lunatic asylum, with chocolate brownies and mayonnaise sandwiches served for tea. 

Pound continues to divide all who read and think of him. At the hospital, the doctors who studied him and the poets who learned from him each had a different understanding of this wild and most difficult man. Tracing Pound through the eyes of his visitors, The Bughouse tells the story of politics, madness and modern art in the twentieth century.

 

Find it on Amazon: here.

 

Reviews of The Bughouse. The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound.

  1. Brown, Craig.  "Ezra Pound was an ardent fascist who wrote much of his finest work while locked in an asylum for 12 years. So can a mad, bad man also be a great poet?" Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics And Madness Of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. Daily Mail Online (February 11, 2017).  Free online.
  2. Crawford, Robert. "Voice from the Asylum." Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. Literary Review 450 (Feb. 2017). Free online
  3. Feay, Suzi. "The Bughouse by Daniel Swift — madness and modernism." Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. Financial Times (February 10, 2017). Free online
  4. Ford, Mark. "The Bughouse by Daniel Swift review – Ezra Pound, antisemitic and in the asylum." Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. The Guardian (March 9, 2017). Free online
  5. Jones, Lewis.  "How mad was Ezra Pound?" Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. The Telegraph (February 12, 2017). Excerpt.
  6. Kirsch, Adam.  "Why Ezra Pound was the most difficult man of the twentieth century."  Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift.  New Statesman (February 28, 2017). Free online
  7. Lewis, Roger. "Pound and the poetry of the padded cell." Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift. The Times (February 4, 2017): 17. Excerpt.
  8. McCrum, Robert. "Was Ezra Pound insane - or just difficult to read?" Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. The Observer, 19 February 2017.  Free online.
  9. Rahim, Sameer.  "Books in brief: The Bughouse by Daniel Swift."  Rev. of The Bughouse by Daniel Swift. Prospect Magazine (April 2017). Free online
  10. Raine, Craig. "Was Ezra Pound mad?" Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. The Spectator (Feb. 18, 2017). Free online.
  11. Walton, James.  "Was Ezra Pound mad... or just downright bad?"  Rev. of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics and Madness of Ezra Pound, by Daniel Swift. Daily Mail (April 6, 2017). Free online

 


 

ON THE WEB         

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GORDON SELLAR’S CANTOS BLOG at gordsellar.com

 

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Gordon Sellar started writing his blog on The Cantos in February 2012. He remembered having read a few in a postgraduate seminar: being a writer himself, with sci-fi and occult leanings, he intended to make Pound the protagonist of a novel. Blogging The Cantos, one at a time, a canto a week, had to be his research and preparation. Glancing over his shoulder at his earlier dabbling, academic or otherwise, Sellar remarked:

Looking back on earlier posts, I seem to have been bound and determined to read all of The Cantos, to the point where, from the vantage point of the present, I am disappointed with myself for not having done so. The problem is, one cannot simply pick up and continue after seven years of having left a book on the shelf. So I am thinking I will start again, for the last time I hope, and post at least once a week about the Cantos, until I have finished the book. (Ezra Poundings – The Reboot, February 2012)

Sellar’s readings have the academic side in the background, but are personal and quirky views on the poem that might be enjoyed for the humour and verve of their author. The blog started in force, first the Ur-Cantos, then a reading of one canto after the next. But as events unfolded in unforeseeable ways, Sellar abandoned the blog after having reached canto 57 in May 2014. It was clear that the China cantos were taking a toll on his patience.

However, we are happy to report that this epic confrontation is not over: Sellar resumed reading the poem in January 2017 and has now started on the Adams Cantos. His latest entry, from 28 April 2017, deals with Canto 62.

Pause here for reflection.        
                                                                                                               
Go to Cantos Blog index here