What is the Imagist movement in American poetry? Imagism

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This movement resulted from a reaction to Victorian poetry that  Imagist poets felt was too sentimental, moralizing, and too conventional is its diction and form. Rejecting the conformity of such poetry, the Imagist poets sought to concentrate on the precise rendering of images in free verse.  Ezra Pound and F. S. Flint first documented the Imagist Movement in the second decade of the twentieth century.  They called for three primary precepts:  conciseness, musical rhythm, and the direct treatment of the 'thing,' whether it is subjective or objective.

Between 1915-1917, American Amy Lowell edited a volume of the anthology Some Imagist Poets.  One of her poems is entitled "Generations."   This poem is concise, it has musical rhythm, and it treats its subject directly.  In this poem, Lowell initially declares,

You are lke the stem

Of a young beech-tree,

Straight and swaying,

Breaking out in golden leaves.

Just as directly, Lowell ends her poem:

But I am like a great oak under a cloudy sky,

Watching a stripling beech grow up at my feet.

In conveying the contrast, Lowell employs much light/dark imagery: 

Your shadow is no shadow, but a scattered sunshine:

And at night you pull the sky down to you

And hood yourself in stars.

collegestudent21 | Student

imagism was a short-lived poetic movement centered in London at the dawn of the 20th century. It signaled the birth of Modernism and its effects are felt in all British and American poetry since that time.

Imagism began as a reaction to the sentimental poetry of versifiers such as William Watson and the Laureate Alfred Austin. Tennyson, Longfellow, and the pre-Raphaelites were imitated. In the United States, Whitman’s influence was not yet felt and the most popular poet was Edmund Clarence Stedman who offered sentimental sonnets such as "A Mother’s Picture".