Looking for Ezra Pound – and finding Joseph Brodsky and David Campbell – art and responsibility

extract  – see the Wonderbook of Poetry for the full story

From the beginning of the 13th C Venice was a rogue capitalist enterprise, monopoly banker to east and west, to the Mongols and the Sultan. The Doges worked with the grandsons of Genghis Khan and advised them which cities to attack, namely their rivals. The major trading cities on the North-South rivers of central Europe, Kiev and Pest were destroyed. Fernand Braudel showed that Venice led the bankers of Florence, Genoa and Siena in sabotaging any potential emergence of rival ‘nation states’. Shelley noted, “The Doge’s Palace, with its library, is a fine monument of aristocratic power. I saw the dungeons, where these scoundrels used to torment their victims. They are of three kinds . . .”

Chiesa di San Michele in Isola

Chiesa di San Michele in Isola

A century after those Mongol victories Edward III of England defaulted on loans from the Bardi and Peruzzi banks. This has been viewed as triggering the collapse of trade and credit in mid-14th C Europe with devastating effects, but his debt was a tiny amount for these inflated banks.

Pound insisted that : “Four things are necessary in any modern or civilized economic system:
1. the labourer;

2. the product;

3. the means of transport; and

4. the monetary carrier.

Inadequate monetarisation has made “inaccessible islands” of fields laying adjacent one with the other; it has erected barriers between garden and factory.”

Economic justice preoccupied the poet, evidence Pound was a sane man trying to make a difference, one who “was innocent of the economist’s concept of ‘value-added’” – tho’ that’s what poets do – they form poems out of the clay of everyday language. He met Mussolini in 33 and outlined his ideas for monetary reform; he wanted to forge policy. “Mussolini has told his people that poetry is a necessity of state, and this displayed a higher state of civilization than in London or Washington.” He quoted Mein Kampf in regard to usury: “The struggle against international finance and loan capital has become the most important point in the National Socialist programme: the struggle of the German nation for its independence and freedom.”