Imagism and Ezra Pound Ezra Pound was one of the greatest poets of the modern era, creating a literary movement known as “imagism.” Pound coined the term in 1912 to assist Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) in the marketing of some of her poems. Doolittle was an unknown author, and Pound decided that her work would be accepted more easily if she were identified with a group of poets (Dettmar/Watt), such as Richard Aldington and F.S. Flint (“Imagists”). Imagists focused mainly on the “clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images” (“Imagism”). T.E.
Hulmes critical views inspired the movement, as imagists were revolting against the “careless thinking and Romantic optimism” Hulme generally saw (“Imagists”). Imagism also drew on Chinese and Japanese influences (“Ezra Pound,” Andover). Another important “imagist,” if you will, was Amy Lowell. When she read Doolittles poems in publication, Lowell believed that her “identity as a poet had been defined.” As an aspiring poet, she now had to “define” herself in relation to the new movement (Dettmar/Watt). Besides inventing an intriguing name for the movement, Pound used two additional strategies in the marketing and advertising of the movement. Lowell was fascinated that the name of the movement was actually French, Imagisme.
Pounds goal was to distinguish imagists from symbolists, but most believed the name insinuated a relationship with French poets like Baudelaire and Mallarme. The second attempt at differentiating the imagist movement from others was the suggestion that the movement had some kind of “mysterious ingredient or quality that only the user of the product can appreciate” (Dettmar/Watt). In Pounds own words “an image is an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time.” Thus the meaning is tied to “a feeling” as a consequence of an event (Terrell, 18). The following are six rules from an Imagist manifesto: 1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
2. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea. 3. Absolute freedom in the choice of subject. 4.
To present an image. We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art. 5. To produce a poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry. (“Imagists”) These words were used to describe how a true imagist should have written, so that the poetry would appeal to the population, not to only a select few. As a result of Pounds new movement, there was absolutely no way he could control the use of the imagism technique. Obviously he could not patent the new term. “Would-be” imagists with bad verse became more of a problem than critics of the free-verse rhythms.
In 1914, when Pound first met Lowell, he initially welcomed her, introducing her to several authors and publishing one of her poems in his Des Imagistes (1914). However, later Pound believed that Lowells poetry was not “direct and concise enough to exemplify imagist technique” (Dettmar/Watt). Lowell soon began using her wealth as a way to establish connections in the industry and take over leadership of the movement. Pound could not match Lowell in this respect. He soon dropped the term “imagism” and gave Lowells movement the name “Amygism.” Pound also refused to contribute to Lowells second “imagiste” anthology (Dettmar/Watt).
Becoming unhappy with the turn that his original movement was taking, Ezra Pound began an improved version of imagism called “vorticism.” Again, he presented H.D.s poetry as the essence of the movement. Critics have observed that the real difference between imagism and vorticism was that “the latter movement distinguished Pound from the mediocre artists who had overtaken imagism.” Pound was determined to keep what he called “our little gang” an elite group (Dettmar/Watt). Perhaps the first true imagist poem, “In a Station of the Metro,” was one of the finest to come out of the period. It was written in 1913 while Pound lived in Paris: I wrote a thirty-line poem, and destroyed it because it was what we called work of second intensity. Six months later I made a poem half that length; a year later I made the following hokka-like sentence [In a Station of the Metro]. I dare say it is meaningless unless one has drifted into a certain vein of thought.
In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward a subjective (“Ezra Pound,” cs.rice). Pound describes his experience at the metro station three years after the initial occurrence. He saw several beautiful faces that day and tried to find words for what this had meant to him. That evening several words came to him, however it took him a lengthy period of time to put the words together into what he deemed an acceptable sentence. Pound believed that the purpose of literature was to present the truth so that the reader could trust the presentation, as well as learn from it (Korn, 53).
If Pound was not a major figure in modernism, he was definitely one of its most radical and influential innovators in verse (Kayman, 5). In researching this topic in regards to Ezra Pound, I found it a bit difficult to find information regarding details of imagism. I truly found the Internet to be more helpful in the actual imagist theory, however research information from the library contributed to the analysis of the poetry itself. I believe it was easier to find information on imagism on the Internet, rather than, say, biographical information, because the “Imagist theory” is based more on facts and it would be harder to inject opinions into the content.