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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 12. September 25, 1946

Ezra Pound—Poet or Fascist

Ezra Pound—Poet or Fascist

Some months ago an article appeared in "Student" upholding Ezra Pound as a poet because his opinions were "sincere." Such an attitude is likely to lay one open to the most vicious Fascist propaganda and is to be heartily condemned.

While we have not the same knowledge of Ezra Pound's works as Mr. Oliver obviously has, there are certain features in his article in "Student" which are important apart from such knowledge, and which cannot go unanswered.

In the first place it is apparently necessary to point out to Mr. Oliver that Pound was not indicted as a war criminal for the verse he wrote, but for his pro-Fascist activities during the war.

These activities, Mr. Oliver says, were carried out by Pound because he was honestly convinced that the Fascists "had something." He further states that, as a result of this, Pound accepted the lot of the Fascists whether they won or lost And after making these statements he objects to Pound being indicted! Surely these things could have been said of William Joyce, of Tokio Rose, or Hitler himself! Moreover, in accepting the "win or lose" stand. Pound surely accepts the possibility of indictment as a traitor to his country. He was still a U.S. citizen, and not all traitors, Mr. Oliver, are such only for filthy lucre. But whether "honest traitors" or not, they are still liable to indictment by their own country.

In considering the value of Pound's writings, one must note that the normal writer's development of thought during his life as a writer is reflected in what he has to say. That seems to me to be fairly elementary. Applying this to Pound, this means that as he finally accepted the philosophy and programme of Fascism, we must be able to trace the development of his conversion to these ideas in his verse. And it would seem that this, in view of Pound's acting on his beliefs by joining and broadcasting for the Fascists, would be the most important feature of his writings. They would probably be so for Pound himself, anyway. (As Pound was acquitted on grounds of insanity, perhaps this argument does not apply.) If this is the type of social documentation in which Mr. Oliver is interested, then he is quite justified in studying it.

But the development patterns of Fascism are obvious enough to anyone who has been interested enough to watch them in the past twenty years, and it seems to me that the more important thing at the moment is not to discuss apologetics for poets-gone-Fascist but to see to it that Fascism does not rise again.