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June 29, 2001 - Image 70

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2001-06-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Stre t ford _play looks at U.S. poet's anti-Semitism.

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zra Pound — acclaimed poet
and hated fascist — opened
his life to intense drama.
Attention to his writing was
rivaled by the notoriety attached to his
anti-Semitic railings spoken in English
over Italian radio during World War II.
A hearing in the United States after the
war was to decide whether he was trai-
tor or madman.
POund's emotion-charged existence
comes to the stage in a courtroom
drama written by award-winning
Canadian author and playwright
Timothy Findley. The Trials of Ezra
Pound, being performed July 8-Aug.
18 at the Stratford Festival of Canada,
confronts the subject in the poet's
declining years.
"Ezra Pound has always fascinated me
principally because I'm a writer and an
anti-fascist and our politics are so widely
divided," says Findley, 71, whose novels
and plays are penned part of the year in
his Stratford home and part of the year
in his residence in France.
"I fell in love with his writing when
I was about 19, not with the Cantos (a
series of 117 poems written 1925-29
attempting a massive, unifying reap-
praisal of history), because they've very
complicated, but his relatively short
poems, because many of them have
great beauty. As I grew to know more
about him and what developed with
his extraordinary broadcasts, I just
thought this was so horrifying.
"I began to be very baffled about
how these two extraordinary opposites
could exist in one mind, and that was
where my interest perked up. I put
him in a novel called Famous Last
Words (1982) and thought, 'One day
I'm going to have to write a play
because what this man's about is so
theatrical and powerful."'
In preparing his dialogue for the
play completed in 1995, Findley
obtained trial transcripts from a friend
he got to know during his acting years
as they toured America. She married
into a family of lawyers with a connec-
tion to the Pound litigation.
Findley's aim was to be true to the

essential facts of the poet's controversies
while taking some literary license to
bring clarity and bridge time gaps for
audiences. He portrays Pound (1885-
1972), who was born and schooled in
America but relocated to Europe, as a
man whose mind is spinning, not
insane but totally unbalanced.
"Through the course of the play, he
can conjure his wife, mistress, poet
friends and proteges," explains
Findley, who has written for radio, tel-
evision and film. "The people he hates
and the people he loves can all be
brought into focus through Ezra's
mind, and that creates the drama."
Findley, who has received Canadian
Authors Association Awards and has
been appointed an Officer of the
Order of Canada, says that the anti-
Semitism expressed by Pound was pres-
ent in his earliest writing and reflects
an attitude pervasive in his time.

Poet Ezra Pound: His anti-Semitic,
pro-Mussolini broadcasts brought him
accusations of treason from the United
States government during World War II.
He was not executed. Instead, he ended
up spending a third of his working life
in a mental institution.

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