Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Collected Poems contains selections from the most significant poetry of Edith Sitwell, published in several volumes beginning in 1915. She proceeds chronologically, grouping poems by the titles of the books in which they first appeared. The poet revised some of her work, which she discusses in an introduction entitled “some Notes on My Own Poetry.” The poet’s introduction tends to concentrate on technical matters, on her concern with the sounds of words and the rhythms of her lines; it says little about the content or the themes of her poetry. Some of her most significant poems, however, are provided with context by a section of notes at the end of the collections.

Sitwell was greatly influenced by two French poets, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) and Jules Laforgue (1860-1887), Symbolist poets who emphasized the poet’s dramatic and imaginative vision. Rimbaud and Laforgue were reacting against the realistic or mimetic tradition, in which the poet professes to be imitating or reflecting the actual world. They suggested that poetry should be less concrete, less bound by the rules of society, and should invent its own world. The tones and colors of the poet’s sensibility should be paramount, not what the world dictates to the poet’s eye and ear. As a result, they produced a poetry that was infinitely suggestive and mysterious, almost hallucinatory in its separation of poetry from everyday reality. Highly personal and elusive symbols became...

(The entire section is 560 words.)