Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (30 October 1885 – 1 November 1972) was an expatriate American poet and critic who was a major figure in the early modernist movement. His contribution to poetry began with his development of Imagism, a movement derived from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, stressing clarity, precision and economy of language. His best-known works include Ripostes (1912), Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) and the unfinished 120-section epic, The Cantos (1917–69).
Working in London in the early 20th century as foreign editor of several American literary magazines, Pound helped discover and shape the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway. He was responsible for the 1915 publication of Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and the serialization from 1918 of Joyce's Ulysses. Hemingway wrote of him in 1925: "He defends [his friends] when they are attacked, he gets them into magazines and out of jail. ... He introduces them to wealthy women. He gets publishers to take their books. He sits up all night with them when they claim to be dying ... he advances them hospital expenses and dissuades them from suicide."
Outraged by the carnage of World War I, Pound lost faith in England and blamed the war on usury and international capitalism. He moved to Italy in 1924, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s he embraced Benito Mussolini's fascism, expressed support for Adolf Hitler and wrote for publications owned by the British fascist Oswald Mosley. During World War II he was paid by the Italian government to make hundreds of radio broadcasts criticizing the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Jews, as a result of which he was arrested by American forces in Italy in 1945 on charges of treason. He spent months in detention in a U.S. military camp in Pisa, including three weeks in a six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cage that he said triggered a mental breakdown, "when the raft broke and the waters went over me". Deemed unfit to stand trial, he was incarcerated in St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington, D.C., for over 12 years.
While in custody in Italy, he had begun work on sections of The Cantos that became known as The Pisan Cantos (1948), for which he was awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1949 by the Library of Congress, triggering enormous controversy. He was released from St. Elizabeths in 1958, thanks to a campaign by his fellow writers, and returned to live in Italy until his death. His political views ensure that his work remains as controversial now as it was during his lifetime; in 1933 Time magazine called him "a cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children". Hemingway wrote: "The best of Pound's writing – and it is in the Cantos – will last as long as there is any literature."