Imagism critical essay

We believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite. In fourteen words, the poem constructs a clear and compelling image that conveys an abstract emotional experience without explicitly describing it. The poem does not follow a strict meter or rhyme scheme; instead, the relationship between the two lines is one of imagery rather than one of sound. The image of faces in the crowd is equated with an image of petals on a bough, remnants of flowers that had just been separated from the tree after rain.

According to Imagists, the work of a great poet is to select the right image that causes the reader to experience a particular emotion or infer a particular reality Hamilton, My favorite Imagist is Amy Lowell. This is an example of a sitewide notice - you can change or remove this text in the Customizer under "Store Notice" Dismiss.

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Like this: Like Loading Lowell understood this form to be similar to free verse but only freer. She called it the most elastic form of poetic expression, as it uses all the poetic "voices" such as meter, cadence, rhyme, alliteration, and assonance. Written in this form, a poem appears like prose on the page, but the sound of the poem reveals its poetic character.

She employed this technique for the first time in her collection Sword Blades and Poppy Seed , about which Aldington wrote an article in the Egoist commending the collection and suggesting that all young poets should read Lowell's poems to learn the technique. Aldington writes as quoted in Hughes's book , "I am not a bit ashamed to confess that I have myself imitated Miss Lowell in this, and produced a couple of works in the same style.

Although Lowell's poetry was often criticized for lack of depth, many critics praised her use of language, especially her proficiency in using polyphonic prose. Pound was responsible for creating six tenets designed to help poets understand what Imagism is and how it differed from other forms of poetry. Of these six, one was about free verse, which, according to the manifesto, would best express the individuality of the poet. The exact wording of this tenet is quoted in David Perkins's book, A History of Modern Poetry: From the s to the High Modernist Mode : "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. Pound thought that releasing poets from the need to rhyme would them to focus better on the image. Pound was not original in this idea, as various forms of free verse had been used in classical Greek literature, in Old English literature such as Beowulf , as well as in French, American, and German poetry.

However, Pound and the other imagist poets took the meaning of free verse to new ground. They believed that rhythm expressed emotion, and the imagists understood, according to Perkins, that "for every emotional state there is the one particular rhythm that expresses it. In other words, the individuality of the poet's emotions would be thwarted by following traditional rules, and thus the overall effect of the poem would become inauthentic or insincere. Thus, the imagists were encouraged to let go of the old standards and open up their emotions to the flow of words that was allowed in free verse.

Of the imagist poets, the Americans, more so than their British cohorts, readily took advantage of free verse. The traditional rules of poetry had been created in Europe and therefore had a European character.

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Through the use of free verse, the American imagists felt that they could compose more individualistic poetry that spoke in an American voice. There was controversy around this form, as many critics had trouble distinguishing the differences between so-called free verse and actual prose. So the question arose: What makes a poem a poem?

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Poetry, most critics argued, required form. Aldington defined his use of free verse as poetry in this way: "The prose-poem is poetic content expressed in prose form" quoted from Hughes. Whereas Fletcher took a more visual and more general approach in attempting to express his understanding of the difference between prose and poetry, believing that all well-written literature could be referred to as poetry, so that it did not matter if poems were written according to very traditional rules or in free verse. In Hughes's book, Fletcher is quoted as saying: "The difference between poetry and prose is.

Another tenet in the imagist manifesto dealt with the specific use of language. Imagist poets were told to use the language of common speech, more like the language one would hear in conversation rather than the formal or decorative language often used in traditional poetry. Imagists were also told to be spare in their use of words, to practice using only the words that were needed to describe an image. They should be concrete in their language, to stay away from abstraction. Pound's definition of what an image was in terms of imagist poetry is rather vague.

He stressed that the language should be precise and concentrated in expressing this image, but he never quite defined what the image of the imagist movement was. One of the tenets of the imagist manifesto was the freedom of the poet to choose any subject that he or she wanted. So image was not related to subject matter. However, it is stated that one of the main purposes of poetry is "To present an image" quoted from Hughes.

This image should not beanabstraction. Ifanabstraction,suchas an emotion, is to be expressed, indeed, it should be told, through an image. Aldington, as stated by Hughes, tried to be a little more specific in his definition of an image by stating that poets should try to create "clear, quick rendering[s] of particulars without commentary.

Imagism and Modernism and Beyond | British Literature Wiki

Ideas are best expressed through things, Williams believed, and there was no better way to express things that contained ideas than through images. The imagists' intent to focus on one image led them to embrace the poetry of Japan, especially haiku, which presents a single image in each poem. Japanese haiku is an ancient form of poetry, originating about AD Haiku is a precise poetic form, consisting typically of seventeen syllables in three lines. Japanese, which is syllabic rather than based on individual letters of an alphabet, is better suited to this form than is English.

Therefore, even though the imagist poets became enamored of this form, they technically never wrote an authentic haiku. However, haiku greatly influenced their work.


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Matsuo Basho is one of Japan's best-known haiku poets. His most famous poem of this type is a good example:. In comparison is Doolittle's "Oread" also taken from Harmer's book , which demonstrates the imagist attempt to practice haiku by writing simply and focusing on one image:. All but Williams, upon deciding to dedicate their lives to writing, and more specifically to poetry, traveled throughout Europe. There was a void, as far as poetry is concerned, in the United States at that time, and those who had a passion for creating poetry felt that they needed to go abroad to find out more about it.


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  5. The American poetry that did exist in the early part of the twentieth century, according to Pound, was mediocre. As quoted in Perkins, Pound states: "Only the mediocrity of a given time can drive intelligent men of that time to 'break with tradition.

    Andrew Hay – On the Shore of Interpretation: The Theory and Reading of the Image in Imagism

    Interestingly, once these American poets became involved in creating the imagist movement, some of them mostly Lowell and Fletcher tended to veer in different directions from their British contemporaries in their attempts to give the language of their poetry a more American slant. Williams stood apart from the other American imagists because he did not believe in the superiority of European styles. He mentored young poets, emphasizing the importance of images from everyday life over allusions to classical literature. Objectivist poetry manifested in the s, an outgrowth of Imagism and a subset f Modernism.

    William Carlos Williams inspired the objectivist poets with the primacy he gave to images and his rejection of classical sources. They did not see themselves as a cohesive group, but the poets most associated with objectivist poetry include George Oppen, Basil Bunting, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, and Lorine Niedecker.

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    The February issue of Poetry was a special edition that focused on objectivist poetry and was edited by Zukofsky. Its reception was mixed and, while objectivist poets continued to publish, the movement was mostly over by the end of the decade. In , Oppen's wife Mary published a memoir, Meaning a Life , which includes a recollection of the objectivist movement. The transition from the Romanticism and Victorianism to Modernism was one of the major shifts in the history of poetry, and some critics credit the imagists with beginning this great change.

    Romantic poetry was marked by its idealism and embellished language, while the imagists proclaimed that they were realists who would write in the vernacular about concrete subjects. The romantics were behind the times, the imagists believed. The older poetic form appealed to audiences that were usually made up of the upper social classes. The modernists wanted to communicate with the masses. The imagist poets were responsible for creating some of the basic instructions for Modernism, which included clear and precise language and suggestive and visual imagery.

    Craig Hamilton points out that Imagism is important because it is an immediate precursor to Modernism, if for no other reason. Modernists would also experiment with ways in which to relate poetry to the other arts. Modernism implied that the population was tired of the past and wanted to see things as they really are in the present or to think about how they might be in the future. The past was gone, and the ancient casts should be broken and discarded.

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