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‘But the worst mistake I made was that stupid suburban prejudice of anti-semitism.’ Ezra Pound

Sitting in a traghetto, Olga Rudge

from Ohio and Ezra Pound from

Idaho – together fifty years,

from concert violinist to poet’s helpmate,

poet maker to fascist propagandist,

he, typically, with stick, wide brimmed hat,

floppy collar, she, wearing woollen gloves,

left hand clutching a large, canvas bag, right hand

a carefully folded scarf, dressed, like any

elderly woman, for a chilly day –

look away separately into the distance.

Five years before Pound’s death, Allen Ginsberg,

from New Jersey, on a sort of Grand Tour,

kissed him on the cheek and forgave him,

on behalf of the Jews, for his ‘mistake’.

‘Do you accept my blessing?’ asked Allen.

‘I do’, said Ezra. What closure! What chutzpah!

Held in a cage in Pisa, lit day and night,

jeered at as a traitor and a coward

by GIs who had battled from the south,

he wrote: ‘What thou lovest well remains,

the rest is dross’.






Note: The poem has subsequently been published at


© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • Arthur Kemelman
    May 12, 2011

    Very much enjoyed your word portrait of Ezra Pound and wife. I think you captured very nicely the historical sweep of this couple’s life, from its tempestous beginnings to the present – a mid-west couple at the end of their lives staring off into the distance, being with each other, content(?) in their silence and with each other. That quotation from Pound, which ends the poem, was lovely: What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross.

    Your references to Allen Ginsberg aroused my curiosity since I had been unaware of this event in Pound’s life. Further research led me to a poem by Rodger Kamenetz, ‘Allen Ginsberg Forgives Ezra Pound on Behalf of the Jews’. An interesting, brief essay precedes the poem. The two can be accessed at

    Some readers may like Elmore Leonard’s novel ‘Pronto’, where one of the central characters is a low life bookie, who dreams of returning to Italy where he served in WW2 – at one time encountering Ezra Pound, whom he was guarding –

  • David Selzer
    May 12, 2011

    Reading Roger Kamenetz’ poem and noting the photo of Allen Ginsberg accompanying it made me realise that the image I had of him when I wrote the poem was not from his Buddhist phase, which he was in, of course, when he visited Ezra Pound.

    I met Allen Ginsberg in Liverpool in 1964, when I was a third year student at the University. He gave a reading, organised by Brian Patten and Adrian Henry. I talked with Allen at a social gathering afterwards at Adrian’s flat. Allen then had short hair and was dressed in dark suit, dark tie, white shirt – every inch the Columbia University BSc Economics graduate he was.

    I had read ‘Howl’ – – at school, was struck by its torrent of words and its ‘realism’ – the opening, for example:

    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
    madness, starving hysterical naked,
    dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
    looking for an angry fix…

    so meeting him was something special.

    He was quietly spoken and a good listener – and emphasised the importance of becoming a graduate, in whatever discipline.

    ‘What thou lovest well remains,/the rest is dross’, which ends ‘Ezra Pound In Venice’, is an extract from Pound’s Canto LXXXI - – composed in his Guantanomo-type cage in Pisa.

    I have tried in ‘Ezra Pound In Venice’ to suggest, through what I hope are evocative visual images, some of the moral ambiguities underlying his story – for example, Pound was a both a major poet, not least because he was strikingly innovative and hugely influential –, and also an accessory to genocide.

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