Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 25, 2009

DHS, St. Elizabeth’s, and Ezra Pound

Filed under: Humor,Organizational Issues — by Philip J. Palin on April 25, 2009

In a speech on Wednesday Secretary Napolitano mentioned — mostly in passing —  how the Department’s currently scattered state makes coordination a challenge.  She told the Anti-Defamation League, “In a few years we will be headquartered in what is currently St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, which is going to be totally renovated and really converted into a lovely campus for the Department of Homeland Security with money that was contained in the stimulus bill that the Congress just passed.”

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is the site of a long-time government insane asylum.  The potential for mordant humor abounds and, no doubt, will be bountifully shared whenever the Department makes its move.  Like an earthquake,  mordant humor cannot be prevented but it might be mitigated.  Response is often non-productive and full recovery is very difficult.

St. Elizabeth’s was the long-time home of the poet Ezra Pound.  Born in Idaho and raised in Philadelphia, he relocated to Europe following the First World War, eventually settling in Rapallo, Italy.  During World War II Pound authored a series of pro-Mussolini, anti-Semitic, and anti-communist radio broadcasts and newpaper articles.  After the Allied victory he was charged with treason. Pound’s lawyers mounted a successful insanity defense and he was committed to St. Elizabeth’s, where he lived from 1946-1958.

While living at St. Elizabeth’s, Ezra Pound continued to write, including perhaps:

What thou lovest well remains,
                              the rest is dross
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
                         or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee


During his twelve years at St. Elizabeth’s Pound hosted many of the best poets of the Twentieth Century, including Robert Lowell, Charles Olson, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop, who wrote Visits to St. Elizabeth’s as a memoir. While Pound was in residence, Southeast Washington D.C. became a veritable poetic Lourdes.

Claiming this poetic legacy would be an effective humor mitigation device.  Each DHS meeting should begin with poetic verse. Congressional reports could be written as sonnets.  Oral testimony might become ad hoc poetry slams.  Could intelligence reports be so carefully crafted as to be nominated for literary recognition?  The  Poet Laureate would finally be recognized for his/her contribution to national resilience. How about awarding DHS employees an annual Ezra Pound Prize for Unconventional Thinking?  

Certainly such a strategy would  reduce gratuitious zings about the insane asylum.  I was glad to see that Philip Mudd fully qualifies for membership in the Professional Organization of English Majors (P.O.E.M.).  He is clearly the man to lead this mitigation mission.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

April 25, 2009 @ 7:15 am

Maybe revoking Pound’s citizenship might have been cheaper. Not treasonous and not crazy. Why not house Lindberg and the American 1sters there also. Interesting footnot is that the NAZI’s spent a fortune in today’s dollars trying to prevent FDR’s 1940 election. Too bad we did not learn then how much foreign governments are willing to spend to corrupt the outcome of US elections. Lost to history but important for Congress to prevent when it allows daily penetration by foreign agents, many and most in fact not registered. You can well understand why. Like the big happy dog in the china shop wagging its tail and breaking the crystal, even when not paying attention the Congress helps make or break many of the nation-states by its incompetence and lack of knowledge. How many Congressmen/women and their staffs are fluent in a foreign language or expert on foreign affairs. And I would not count those fluent in Western Eurpoean languages where the US future is not at stake like elsewhere.

Location of DHS HQ at St.E’s is crazy. Think of flight lines for Flight 93 on 9/11. Sitting on a small prominent rise it presents a great target. There is no “seat of government” restriction on DHS or its components, so a small downtown operation with most of its operations and components more remote and west of the most likely plumes would have made more sense to me. Hey they will be able to duck out to NATS games when defending the homeland gets too much.

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April 17, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

[…] when Pound was being evaluated for legal action for his war-time radio broadcasts. This was before St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Try as I might to be objective, I cannot read Frost’s […]

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November 12, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

[…] 25, 2009 from “Dept of Homeland Security Watch” quotes Secretary Janet Napolitano having said “We will be headquartered in what is […]

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