Imagism was a short-lived but influential movement in English and American poetry that flourished during the years 1912 to 1917. Self-consciously modernist in their aesthetic outlook, the Imagists sought to dislodge the diction, sentimentality, moralizing tone, and conventional forms of Victorian poetry, and instead to concentrate on the precise rendering of images in free verse. Influenced by the ideas of the poet and philosopher T. E. Hulme, Ezra Pound and F. S. Flint first documented the theory of Imagism in London early in the second decade of the twentieth century. Their ideals for the new movement appeared in Flint's "Imagisme," printed in the periodical Poetry in March of 1913, which became the manifesto of the fledgling group. Together Flint and Pound devised the three primary precepts of Imagism, calling for conciseness, musical rhythm, and "the direct treatment of the 'thing' whether subjective or objective." These theories were soon after put into practice in the first Imagist anthology, edited by Pound and entitled Des Imagistes (1914). The collection featured poems by Pound, Richard Aldington, and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)—all members of the coterie—as well as verse by several young poets whose writing bore affinities to that of the Imagists, including Amy Lowell, John Gould Fletcher, James Joyce, and William Carlos Williams.
Tensions led to Pound's break with the Imagists less than a year after the publication of Des Imagistes to form a related movement called Vorticism. Meanwhile, the American Amy Lowell had arrived in England and become the group's de facto head after Pound's departure. She successfully endeavored to bring more poets into the fold—including D. H. Lawrence—and to popularize Imagism across the Atlantic. Each year between 1915 and 1917 Lowell edited a volume of the anthology Some Imagist Poets. After a period of considerable interest, the Imagist movement, as such, had run its course by 1917. Many members of the group, however, continued to write in accordance with Imagist precepts. A final Imagist Anthology, edited by Aldington, appeared in 1930, and despite its tardiness attests to certain enduring qualities among the writings of these early modernists. In the ensuing decades, critics have attempted to assess the overall impact of the Imagists and see in their typically spare poems a pre-figuring of the high modernist verse of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land and Pound's Cantos, as well as an influence on the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, E. E. Cummings, and others.
Images (poetry) 1915
Images of Desire (poetry) 1919
Images of War (poetry) 1919
War and Love (poetry) 1919
Exile, and Other Poems (poetry) 1923
A Fool i' the Forest (poetry) 1925
The Love of Myrrhine and Konallis, followed by Nineteen Prose Poems (poetry) 1926
Collected Poems (poetry) 1928
The Eaten Heart (poetry) 1929
A Dream in the Luxembourg [also published as Love and the Luxembourg] (poetry) 1930
Sea Garden (poetry) 1916
Hymen (poetry) 1921
Helidora, and Other Poems (poetry) 1924
Collected Poems (poetry) 1925
Hippolytus Temporizes (drama) 1927
John Gould Fletcher
The Book of Nature (poetry) 1913
The Dominant City (poetry) 1913
Fire and Wine (poetry) 1913
Fool's Gold (poetry) 1913
Visions of the Evening (poetry) 1913
Irradiations—Sand and Spray (poetry) 1915
Goblins and Pagodas (poetry) 1916
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History And Development
Richard Aldington and Amy Lowell
[In the following essay, Aldington and Lowell outline the central tenets of Imagism.]
SOURCE: Preface to Some Imagist Poets, 1915: An Anthology, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915, pp. v-viii.
In March, 1914, a volume appeared entitled Des Imagistes. It was a collection of the work of various young poets, presented together as a school. This school has been widely discussed by those interested in new movements in the arts, and has already become a household word. Differences of taste and judgment, however, have arisen among the contributors to that book; growing tendencies are forcing them along different paths. Those of us whose work appears in this volume have therefore decided to publish our collection under a new title, and we have been joined by two or three poets who did not contribute to the first volume, our wider scope making this possible.
In this new book we have followed a slightly different arrangement to that of the former Anthology. Instead of an arbitrary selection by an editor, each poet has been permitted to represent himself by the work he considers his best, the only stipulation being that it should not yet have appeared in book form. A sort of informal committee—consisting of more than half the authors here represented—have arranged the book and decided what should be printed and what omitted, but, as...
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Cyrena N. Pondrom
[In the following essay, Pondrom discusses the contributions of H.D. to the theory and practice of Imagism.]
SOURCE: "H.D. and the Origins of Imagism," in Sagetrieb: A Journal Devoted to Poets, Vol. 4, Spring, 1985, pp. 73-97.
At the conclusion of his book, Noel Stock, the biographer of Ezra Pound, summarized: "With Yeats, Joyce, Lewis and Eliot dead he was the last survivor among the leading men of the formative years of the 'modern movement' in English literature—the movement in which he himself had played an important part, not only as innovator and renewer of language, but as impresario and publicity-agent, fund-raiser and office boy."1 One could easily conclude from Stock's summation that modernism was a movement which owed its foundation and its characteristics to men alone. His emphasis is hardly atypical, even today, when a rapidly swelling scholarship on women writers makes only the least informed unaware that modernism possessed important women members.
The honor role of modernists who wrote in English must include, of course, Gertrude Stein, Hilda Doolittle, Dorothy Richardson, Marianne Moore, Virginia Woolf, and Edith Sitwell, to name only those leaders whose innovative work began within the period Stock calls "the formative years" of the modern movement. To those must be added the women whose genius lay more in the...
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Sources And Influences
[In the following essay, Martin locates sources of lmagist aesthetics in theories of philosophy and psychology that were current in the early twentieth century.]
SOURCE: "The Sources of the Imagist Aesthetic," in PMLA, Vol. 84, No. 2, March, 1970, pp. 196-204.
When subjected to scholarly scrutiny, literary revolutions usually prove less novel than they appear to be. We now know that the twentieth-century reaction against Romanticism was largely based on Romantic principles, and a number of writers have argued that Aestheticism, Symbolism, Imagism, and Surrealism are essentially extensions of the literary revolution that began in the eighteenth century. At the same time, these movements do embody distinctive features that cannot be explained by reference to their literary tradition. For an understanding of innovation in aesthetic theory, we often must turn to intellectual history. The influence of Schopenhauer and Hartmann on Symbolism, and that of Bergson and Freud on Surrealism, did not determine the character of these movements. But knowledge of such influences helps us understand the origin and process of literary change, as well as the historical process of which literature is a part.
The purpose of this paper is to show that the aesthetic tenets of Imagism were based upon philosophic and psychological theories of the early twentieth century,...
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Imagism And Other Movements
[In the following essay, Skaff focuses on the importance of metaphor and the unconscious in the poetic theories advanced by Ezra Pound and the Surrealists.]
SOURCE: "Pound's Imagism and the Surreal," in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 12, July, 1985, pp. 185-210.
In an essay of 1937, "D'Artagnan Twenty Years After," in which Ezra Pound reminisces of the few years when Imagism came to maturity, soon to be subsumed by Vorticism, two topics continually recur: Surrealism and metaphor. Since Blast, 1914, and in particular, The Little Review, 1917/19, Pound finds "very little news intervening between that date and the present on the literary frontier." He then mentions what might possibly have been considered innovative: "1923 winter of the same periodical showed a fair list of surrealists with all the subsequent features of that little coterie."1 But Pound proceeds to assert that the Surrealist program was not new: "so unmoving was the air in the French parlour and dining room that Aragon's generation doesn't yet know that at given date the French were missing a train already gone from the Ormond St. and Kensington junction,"2 an imaginary depot that represents the collaboration of Pound and the activities of the Rebel Art Centre.3 That "train" left in the year in which Pound codified the...
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Influence And Legacy
[In the following essay, Whalen identifies Imagist qualities in the poetry of Philip Larkin.]
SOURCE: "Philip Larkin's Imagist Bias: His Poetry of Observation," in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 2, Summer, 1981, pp. 29-46.
Larkin's use of traditional poetic forms and his openly expressed contempt for Modernism have gained for him a reputation as a relatively provincial poet. Many see his admiration for such minor poets as John Betjeman, for instance, as being in step with the narrow taste he exhibits in the selections which make up his edition of The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century Verse (1973). Evaluating the technical cleverness of Modernist jazz musicians, Larkin has remarked that 'I dislike such things not because they are new, but because they are irresponsible exploitations of technique in contradiction of life as we know it. This is my essential criticism of modernism, whether perpetuated by Parker, Pound or Picasso: it helps us neither to enjoy nor endure'.1 Modernist art is given to obscurity without profundity, is inclined to pretentiousness. In an interview with Ian Hamilton, Larkin has expressed his impatience this way:
What I do feel a bit rebellious about is that poetry seems to have got into the hands of a critical industry which is concerned with culture in the abstract, and this I do rather...
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Aldington, Richard, ed. Imagist Anthology, 1930. London: Chatto & Windus, 1930, 154 p.
Contains poems by Pound, Lowell, Flint, Hulme, and others associated with the Imagist movement.
Jones, Peter, ed. Imagist Poetry. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972, 188 p.
Includes an introduction outlining the development of Imagism.
Pratt, William, ed. The Imagist Poem: Modern Poetry in Miniature. New York: Dutton, 1963, 128 p.
Includes an introduction surveying the major writers and themes of the Imagist movement.
Aldington, Richard. "Chapter IX." In Life for Life's Sake: A Book of Reminiscences, pp. 133-59. New York: The Viking Press, 1941.
Personal recollection of the Imagist movement by one of the group's founding members.
Clements, Patricia. "The Imagists." In Baudelaire & The English Tradition, pp. 260-99. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985.
Recounts the development of Imagism in theory and practice, as a self-consciously modern and at times self-contradictory movement spawned from the innovations of the French Symbolists, particularly Charles Baudelaire.
Dembo, L. S. "H.D. Imagiste and Her Octopus Intelligence." In H.D. Woman and Poet,...
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