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The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound Hardcover – November 7, 2017
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“This story of Pound's politics and his prejudices takes on fresh significance...Swift is an alert and eloquent guide...I guarantee that The Bughouse will vex you into thinking more deeply about the relation between an artist's life and work, and perhaps even about the old-fashioned question of moral responsibility.” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
"Engrossing . . . immensely fascinating." ―Diego Baez, Booklist
"A sensitive investigation into the enigmatic, prodigious mind of poet Ezra Pound . . . [Daniel Swift] draws on memoirs . . . as well as interviews, a close reading of Pound's writings, and medical records to create a multidimensional portrait of a celebrated, controversial literary figure." ―Kirkus Reviews
"The Bughouse is an extraordinary book of real, passionate research that keeps surprising and illuminating by turns. It has made my love of Pound far more difficult―as it should." ―Edmund de Waal
"'Pound,' he quipped of his name, 'an enclosure for stray animals.' Swift tells the stories of six poets (although there were many more) who were gathered by Uncle Ez into his pen at St. Elizabeths. Hospitalized Pound here emerges as the uncanny figure of the hospes, at once stranger, guest, and host, at once a welcoming organism and a dangerous, parasitical virus." ―Richard Sieburth, author of Instigations: Ezra Pound and Remy de Gourmont
"To understand an artist as compromised by circumstances―and by his own many contradictions―as Ezra Pound, we have to trace a complex path through a maze of half-truths, myth, and simplification. The Bughouse does so with supreme care, critical acumen, and humanity, shedding a whole new light not only on Pound the man, but also on the shape and character of The Cantos, one of the most seriously flawed and truly brilliant artworks of the twentieth century." ―John Burnside
“A wonderful portrait of Ezra Pound in all his moods―mad, bad, and blindingly sane.”
―A. Alvarez, author of The Savage God
About the Author
Daniel Swift teaches at the New College of the Humanities in London. His first book, Bomber County, was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, and his essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, the New Statesman, and Harper’s Magazine.
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Furthermore, the issue is complicated in Pound’s case by the vexed question of his sanity. The numerous mental-health professionals who examined him dramatically disagreed about this, and Swift acknowledges that “Pound’s madness—or not—will always remain an open question.” I was most intrigued to learn here that Pound’s defense attorney tried to use his poetry as evidence of his insanity!
Many books on Pound have, of course, grappled with this issue of the man and his work, and no single study can possibly settle this intractable problem, but this book’s approach—looking at the postwar Pound primarily through the writings of the fellow poets who visited him in St. Elizabeths Hospital—makes a real contribution. In this respect, it is like M. Owen Lee’s useful book Wagner: The Terrible Man & His Truthful Art.
And he does it all in about 250 pages!
Some of the ideas contained in "The Bughouse" are interesting (and others, not so much), but they are not developed. This is not a bad book, and it is a fairly quick and easy read; however, it needs more focus.