Dear Dispatches

In August 1943, PM Magazine, heavily critical of Ezra Pound for his broadcasts in Italy, solicited the opinion of William Carlos Williams, who said of his friend “His stupidities coupled with his overweening self esteem have brought him down – but to try to make a criminal of him because of that is to lay ourselves open to the accusation of being moved by an even greater stupidity than that which we are facing… Ezra Pound… taken as any sort of menace to America when compared with some of the vicious minds at large among us in, say for instance the newspaper game… is sheer childishness. He just isn’t dangerous, they are… I don’t think we should be too hard on him.”

Twelve years later, when Pound was still incarcerated for treason, Archibald MacLeish wrote his first letter to Pound in twenty years: “The service to the arts I should most like to see performed is the service which would give you some peace and quiet in which to work. You and I differ politically.. .but I have always been.. .of one mind with those who HAVE minds about your work.”  Despite the aforementioned political differences, MacLeish worked with Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway on Pound’s release, securing letters from John Dos Passos, Marianne Moore, Carl Sandburg, W.H. Auden, Allen Tate, and Dag Hammarskjold for a District Court hearing. When Pound was dropped from a Random House anthology in 1946, Conrad Aiken wrote in protest “a burning of the books was a kind of intellectual and moral suicide which we might more wisely leave to our enemies.”

I know of no record of any major author contacting New Directions or Faber and Faber to ask that they drop Ezra Pound, any demotion from honorary or editorial positions, or anyone suggesting publicly that others should “stop supporting” Pound, as someone tweeted about Linh Dinh, retweeted by someone who named one of Dinh’s publishers.  Do the people making these appeals, seeking work as literary teachers, teach this history, or is it being erased? Of the people who did contact New Directions and/or Faber and Faber about dropping Pound, does anyone remember their names?

Pound’s statements were much worse than Dinh’s.  And if New Directions had dropped Pound for anti-Semitism, what would they then do about other authors of theirs such as Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Henry Miller, Charles Baudelaire, Robert Duncan, in addition to the Nazi supporter Knut Hamsun, and what would Grove Press do about its having issued Miller’s Moloch, in addition to works by Amiri Baraka, Duncan, and Jean Genet?

The wisdom of Dr. Williams’ words extends to the comparison of Pound to “the vicious minds among us in.. the newspaper game.. He isn’t dangerous, they are” spoken when the US was in the throes of total war with the real, overwhelming menace of Hitler and Mussolini. Today the “newspaper game” attempts to fashion both a conservative and liberal establishment that is pro-war, while recent polls show that Democrats have become more pro-war, by a small margin, than Republicans, though both sides are overwhelmingly anti-war at the grassroots.  Unz Review, which Dinh primarily writes for after many years writing for the liberal Counterpunch, publishes a number of prominent voices of the left, including the always-enlightening James Petras, who is nowhere to be found in Counterpunch and certainly The Nation.  But even as Unz publishes much conservative opinion deemed odious to the other side, the web site is full of the constant debunking of war propaganda repeated by ‘both sides’ of the corporate media spectrum.  The journalist Gareth Porter recently tweeted: “We need a new organization or formal alliance seeking to reach to old left, libertarian left and bridging the anti-Trump and pro-Trump fissures, with specific attention to students and youth. And we need to focus on a viable strategy for halting the Permanent War Complex.”  Kent Johnson to Linh Dinh: “I’d been concerned about the credence you were giving to wacked out 9-11 stuff.” Two months ago, Brown University’s Watson Institute published a study reporting that 480,000-507,000 have been killed in the War on Terror, after the two co-chairs of the 9-11 Commission, Governor Thomas Kean and the Honorable Lee Hamilton co-wrote a memoir stating “there were all kinds of reasons we thought we were set up to fail.”  Dr. Williams asks “who’s more dangerous?” 9-11 researcher Peter Dale Scott, who uses Pound’s and Williams’ forms to write the greatest political poetry of the 20th Century, is woefully ignored by fellow academic poets. Richard Aldington reflected that the “real reason” for the British initiative in 1915 to collect all copies of D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and destroy them “was that he denounced war.”

Leonard Tancock wrote in his 1972 introduction to Diderot’s The Nun: “It is a gross oversimplification to suppose that in eighteenth-century France, even during the sometimes fierce Encyclopedic war, everybody automatically hated either the Catholics or the Freethinkers.  Many people were capable of human friendships transcending ideological or religious opinion. Today we seem to be less fortunate.” If anything, it’s gotten worse now. I paraphrased Murat’s letter to Linh and he replied “I really don’t understand Murat’s sentiment. How is he losing me?”  Over the years I have tried to be as supportive as possible to Linh and it is not exaggeration or politeness to say he has paid it back twofold. Linh has spent as much time interviewing the downtrodden as anyone, as stated by Chris Hedges who spends much time doing the same, and despite my own bitter disagreements over these same issues and disgust about the quotations you cite, his empathy for people, including the groups he’s recently criticized, is rarely found anywhere.  His poetry will be read for centuries because it has revitalized the dramatic monologue in English to restore the much-derided subjective voice coming from the dive bars of every corner of the world and his own subconscious.