Don't think a poetry prize can be controversial? The first Bollingen Prize in Poetry awarded by a congressionally appointed literary panel in 1949 is still making waves. And it's no wonder.
The recipient was Ezra Pound, an American expatriate who'd been indicted for treason against the U.S. during World War II. At the time of the award, Pound was confined to a Washington, D.C. hospital after being declared insane.
Born in Idaho, Pound became a poet and critic, and was arguably one of the most influential voices in 20th century English and American literature. As he lived and worked in London and Paris, Pound became incensed by the lives lost during World War I and the injustices he saw in the world. By 1924, he'd moved to Italy where the fascist leanings of Benito Mussolini captured his attention. Becoming increasingly radical during the 1930s and 1940s, Pound publicly supported Adolph Hitler.
As World War II broke out, the Italian government paid him to produce radio broadcasts that insulted the U.S. and supported fascism. After hundreds of these broadcasts, Pound was arrested in 1945 by Americans in Italy. He was charged with treason and spent months in a U.S. military camp writing one of his best-known works, "Pisan Cantos," before being hospitalized in the U.S.
Nine years after receiving the Bollingen Prize for "Pisan Cantos," he was released and returned to Italy, where he lived until his death in 1972 [source: Biography].