The Bughouse by Daniel Swift
The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound

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This is by way of saying that when we indict Pound, we indict ourselves and our society. Unfortunately, this argument goes only so far.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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, D.C., where he was held for more than 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 on 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, Daniel Swift’s The Bughouse tells a story of politics, madness, and modern art in the twentieth century.

 

About Daniel Swift

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Daniel Swift has written for Bookforum, The New York Times Book Review, and The Times Literary Supplement.
 
Published November 7, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 317 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Bughouse
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Karl Kirchwey on Jan 09 2018

This is by way of saying that when we indict Pound, we indict ourselves and our society. Unfortunately, this argument goes only so far.

Read Full Review of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Pol... | See more reviews from NY Times

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Dec 04 2017

Whether you regard that verdict as a travesty or good riddance or something else, I guarantee that The Bughouse will vex you into thinking more deeply about the relation between an artist's life and work...

Read Full Review of The Bughouse: The Poetry, Pol... | See more reviews from NPR

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