Ezra Pound and the Tea Party: Troubled Associations in America

Ezra Pound’s radical poetics have had claimants and followers as far ranging as Bunting to Ginsberg, and Zukofsky to Creeley and Olson. The experimental 

— By | February 22, 2010

ezra_georgeEzra Pound’s radical poetics have had claimants and followers as far ranging as Bunting to Ginsberg, and Zukofsky to Creeley and Olson. The experimental Pound has usually found a welcome abode among experimentalists. But his heirs are not entirely literary — and often not exactly clear about how they claim lineage to Pound, or why they would even choose to do so. A recent article in Esquire reveals that Pound has been coming up with increasing frequency in the emails of the American Tea Party Movement (the Tea Baggers), in addition to popping up in the more fringe, racially motivated websites of the movement. It seems that nobody bothered to tell them that Pound was a staunch anti-provincialist, writing in essays like Provincialism: The Enemy that “provincialism, this ignorance of the nature and custom of foreign peoples, this desire to coerce others, this desire for uniformity-uniformity always based on the temperment of the particular provincial desiring it,” was the brainwash rotgut that had kept barbarians in backwoods hells lopping heads for millenia. Heu! If you’re going to claim a thinker, at least bother to read re: the things about which they thought so carefully.

The Esq. article quotes of the emails:

While studying in Washington, Mullins was asked to go to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to talk to the nation’s most famous political prisoner, Ezra Pound. The outstanding literary figure of the twentieth century, Pound had seen three of his pupils awarded the Nobel Prize, while it was denied to him because of his pronouncements as a native American patriot.

Access the insightful original article by John H. Richardson here.


4 Responses to Ezra Pound and the Tea Party: Troubled Associations in America

  1. Nick on September 23, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Ezra Pound was also a anti-semitic fascist, whom other more sensible more progressive poets like Neruda and Lorca despised. To paint Pound as a great poet is fine, no doubt there, but a social sage? It is not surprising his name is evoked by the tea baggers.. Beyond that, to suggest he left America for it’s lack of cultural/racial advancement is bizarre. Certainly America was wrought with racial problems i.e post reconstruction lynchings, Nazi sympathies, etc. But Pound was no saint either and found himself aligned with brutally oppressive leaders; he supported Mussolini and to a lesser degree Franco. So beyond the irony that this article points out, its overall sentiment and approach to Pound is slightly misguided.

    • Edgar Garcia on November 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      Nick – it is difficult to find a platform of discourse with you when you begin with the presumption that Pound’s association with fascism was the defining feature of his position on provincialism, place and ways of thinking about space. Following your reasoning, I could say the same about Neruda’s Stalinism in order to disparage his own thinking on space, place and movement. Therefore – rather than begin with political slur and work backwards, I recommend that you read some Pound (your note suggests that you’ve read one line from an anthology – although I’m sure you’ve read a bit more) and really think about how movement works there, how place is theorized. Or, taking a shortcut, read his “Provincialism, the Enemy.”

      But to address what I think is the more interesting point you illustrate here (that Pound remains largely under-read and instead read about by persons who form certain opinions based upon bad biography): It is interesting to think about how the tea-party seems desperate enough to create party identity by identifying a cultural authority, that they would go to Pound, or Jefferson or Adams, neglecting that any of these social thinkers would have been highly uneasy with the buckshot mindset of political party itself. But this is a problem on the left as well – which you demonstrate in your invocation of Neruda and Lorca.

      Anyway, all I’m trying to say is – why don’t we read the poetry, instead of deploying the poet as political instrument?

  2. dror on December 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    if anything pound was looking to get with far more intense racism/genocide out of the country.

  3. stephen on May 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

    while the main point of this article is spot-on, it’s not exactly correct to say categorically that pound was not a nativist. sure, he wouldn’t take the tea party seriously. but in his abc of economics, he overvalues his “frontier origins” (spent the first 2 years of his life in idaho) and laments the “decline of the american type” in the face of immigration. he never revoked his u.s. citizenship, a fact which landed him in a heap of legal trouble over his radio broadcasts (in which he frequently identified himself as an “american citizen”).

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