Biography of Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho in 1885, the only child of Homer Loomis Pound and Isabel Weston. When he was eighteen months old, his mother took him to live back east, and his father soon followed. They settled in Pennsylvania, which is where Pound grew up.

During his childhood, Pound attended a number of different schools, ranging from a Quaker-run institution to a military academy. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be a poet. On November 7th, 1896, Pound published his first piece: A limerick he had written about William James Bryan, who had just recently lost a presidential election, appeared in the Jenkintown Times-Chronicle.

Pound took his first trip overseas at the age of 13. Two years later, in 1901, he earned admission to the University of Pennsylvania's College School of Arts. There, he met Hilda Doolittle (later known as the poet H.D. Doolittle), with whom Pound would go on to have a romantic relationship. However, his grades at UPenn were not impressive, and after another European tour with his parents and aunt, Pound transferred to Hamilton College. He graduated in 1905 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy, and then went back to the University of Pennsylvania to get his master's degree in romance languages, graduating in 1906. After registering as a PhD student, Ezra Pound received a travel grant, which he used to return to Europe, moving between Madrid, Paris, and London. When he returned to the United States, he published his first essay, "Raphaelite Latin," in Book News Monthly. After that, Ezra Pound managed to irritate the head of the UPenn English Department, which resulted in him not getting his fellowship renewed. Pound therefore decided to leave UPenn without finishing his doctorate.

After teaching at Wabash College for two years, Pound traveled to Spain, Italy, and London, where he became interested in Japanese and Chinese poetry. He decided to make a permanent move to London, and stayed there almost continuously for twelve years. During this time, Pound published a collection of poetry called Personae, which became his most successful work to date. Together with Hilda Doolittle, who arrived in Europe in 1911, and poet Richard Arlington, Pound began to develop a new literary movement called Imagism, which aimed for more clarity and less abstraction in language and poetry. In 1914, Ezra Pound married Dorothy Shakespear, the daughter of novelist Olivia Shakespear. That same year, he became the London editor of the Little Review.

In 1921, the Pounds settled in Paris, but they were unhappy there and moved to Italy in 1924. In Paris, however, Pound had begun a love affair with American violinist Olga Rudge, and she followed the couple to Italy while pregnant with Pound's child. When Rudge and Pound's daughter, Mary, was born, Ezra Pound finally told his wife about the affair. Dorothy separated from her husband for several months, but later returned. Soon thereafter, the Pounds had a son of their own named Omar. Because they had different mothers, Mary and Omar had very different upbringings.

Throughout his time in Paris, Pound worked continuously on his poems and collections, including The Cantos, which remains one of his most famous works. He also befriended many notable poets of his time, including Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot. After relocating to Italy, Pound became absorbed in fascism. This ideology followed Ezra Pound back to the United States, and soon after his return in 1945, Pound was arrested for broadcasting fascist propaganda. He was acquitted but declared mentally ill, which landed him in St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. While confined, Ezra Pound was awarded the Bollingen-Library of Congress Award for the Pisan Cantos. He was eventually released from the hospital, thanks to countless appeals from his fellow writers. He settled in Venice, Italy, where he eventually died in 1972.

Study Guides on Works by Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound's contribution to poetry is marked by his promotion of Imagism, a movement centered on clarity, economic language, and rhythm. Pound started this movement after studying Japanese forms of poetry like waka verse and haiku. These forms...