“The Camellia tree would leave its place/ By the gateway,/ And wander up and down the garden,/ Trailing its roots behind it.” ~ Amy Lowell.
Fetch the axe, the poet said. But when you swung,
and bit deep, dark blood spouted, and when you
bent down to tear out the stump, the ground hung
open, “like a wound.” That you could, then threw
the foul thing ten feet, was lost on Lowell.
It was her ghost tale; as if a lewd tree
using lewd roots in lewd ways made a hell
better tale than you. Bull-dagger, Bootchy
-bitch, she called you. Boon-butch. Why the poet
of, “Two Speak Together,” shunned you, dunno,
but you swaggered like a boss. That macabre
bit of wood could only spew sap: scarlet
juice. You rose, aflame, but found your hero
didn’t notice, the one you called heartthrob.
This poem began with a line from the American poet, Amy Lowell, in, “The Camellia Tree of Matsue,” a curious little tale about a haunted tree. It ends with an anonymous gardener digging up said tree and finding it hemorrhaging blood. For whatever reason the gardener got my attention so I began doing research about Lowell and that led me to this asshole: Ezra Pound. Truth be told, taking Pound to task for his treatment of Lowell is the least of his crimes. As a fascist collaborator he ignored the massacres of Italian Jews and Gypsies in 1943, he ignored the Risiera di San Sabba extermination camp in Trieste, he ignored the Nazi occupational forces and Fascist militias running amok throughout all of Italy. However, much like with Gertrude Stein in Vichy France, when Pound’s name comes up there are still apologists who will hand-wave all this away by saying, “Yes, yes, the Holocaust was unfortunate but that was all Germany’s fault, all Mussolini wanted was for the trains to run on time.” I bring this up because long before he was Benito’s boot-licker he spent his time between Cantos attacking Amy Lowell in the way so many men do when talking about their betters: he ridiculed her for her weight, her “mannish” appearance, her love of other women. She wasn’t an Imagist poet, Pound wrote, she was a, “Hippopoetess … who wore pince-nez glasses and smoked cheap cigars.” Why there is still a cult of personality around this man to this day baffles me, except that it takes a fascist to love a fascist, I suppose. If you’ve never read Lowell before I highly suggest, Pictures of the Floating World (1927) which contains numerous erotic poems written to her lover and muse, Ada Dwyer Russell.