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Imagism

Poetry, Ripostes, Les Imagistes, Des Imagistes, locus classicus, Some Imagists, Sea Garden, Lustra, Cadences, Imagist Poetry

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the first of numerous concerted movements associated with Anglo-American poetic Modernism. T. E. Hulme was influential in the emergence of Imagism's aesthetic and technical characters, which were summed up in the tripartite declaration of aims formulated by Ezra Pound and F. S. Flint and published in Poetry (Chicago) in 1913: ‘1) Direct treatment of the “thing”, whether subjective or objective; 2) To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation; 3) As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of a metronome.’ Pound coined the term in his preface to ‘The Complete Poetical Works of T. E. Hulme’, which appeared as an appendix to his Ripostes in 1912: ‘As for the future’, he wrote, ‘Les Imagistes … have that in their keeping.’ In its clarity, concentrated precision, and disciplined formal freedom, the best work of the Imagists was highly successful as an antidote to the debilitated poetic conventions of the nineteenth century and to the subjective excesses of the Symboliste poets. Des Imagistes (1914), edited by Pound, was the movement's first anthology, containing work by himself and ten other poets, among whom were Hilda Doolittle, Flint, Richard Aldington, Amy Lowell, W. C. Williams, F. M. Ford, and James Joyce. Pound wrote of the image as an ‘intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time’, conceiving of Imagism as a bodying forth of subjective states in externally apprehended particulars; these ideas are illustrated by his ‘In a Station of the Metro’, a well-known example of the mode's characteristic brevity and incisiveness, which reads in its entirety as follows: ‘The apparition of these faces in the crowd; | Petals on a wet, black bough.’ Doolittle's early poetry is frequently regarded as the locus classicus of Imagism for its crystalline descriptive concision in which imaginative and emotional energies are actively inherent. Three further anthologies all entitled Some Imagists were published in 1915, 1916, and 1917, under the editorship of Amy Lowell, who became the principal promoter of the movement and created growing interest in it in America. For Pound and others, however, Lowell brought about the degeneration of Imagism to ‘Amy-gism’. The essential flowering was over by 1916, the year in which Doolittle's Sea Garden and Pound's Lustra appeared, which, with Flint's Cadences (1915), contain the best examples of Imagist poetry. In its emphasis on the primacy of the poetic image and its dedication to purging poetry of imprecise diction, metrical predictability, and tendencies to vague abstraction, Imagism's influence over poetry in English in the twentieth century has been pervasive and enduring. Imagist Poetry (1972), edited by Peter Jones, contains extracts from the movement's theoretical statements and prefaces as well as selections from the work in their anthologies.

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over 5 years ago

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