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Ezra Caged

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BBC Radio 4, 21 December 2008
 
This documentary, accompanied by readings from the poet himself, told the story of Ezra Pound's wartime exploits: his pro-Fascist broadcasts on Italian radio, his arrest by the Americans on suspicion of sedition; and his internment in a prison camp in a cage, where he was often exposed to the elements. Presenter Jeremy Harding argued that such experiences, although injurious to Pound's health (he had problems with his eyesight), inspired him to write some of his greatest poetry in the Cantos. Eventually he was released from the cage and confined to a cell, where he only had a volume of Confucius and a Chinese dictionary to help him write. Nonetheless he drew upon his extensive knowledge of Homer and Dante to focus in particular on the concept of sin and its implications. Like many poets, he saw himself as a seer - someone who could understand the rhythms of existence and communicate them to his readers. It didn't matter if he wrote obscurely; what was important was that the words should capture as accurately as possible the nature of the experience. Pound's life in the prison-camp taught him to sympathize with the African-Americans and their struggle to find a voice in a fundamentally racist society. Harding suggested that this was what influenced much of his writing at that time.
 
After the Second World War ended, Pound was set back to the United States to stand trial, but escaped censure on the grounds of insanity. He was confined to an institution and remained there until his eventual release in 1958. For the remaining nine years of his life he travelled around Italy and continued to write the Cantos, even though he remained perpetually dissatisfied with his work.
 
Ezra Caged offered a comprehensive view of Pound's later life, presented by someone with an obvious enthusiasm for his poetry. The producer was Tim Dee.