Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Imagism was a movement in early 20th century Anglo-American poetry. It rejected romantic and sentimental Victorian traditions in favour of precision of imagery in clear, sharp language.

Table of contents
1 Early Imagism
2 Des Imagistes
3 Amy Lowell
4 The Imagists After Imagism
5 Reference
6 External link

Early Imagism

The origins of Imagism are to be found in two poems, Autumn and A City Sunset by T. E. Hulme that were published in 1909 by the Poets' Club in London. Hulme was a student of mathematics and philosophy who had set up the Poets' Club to discuss his theories of poetry. Writing in A. R. Orage's magazine The New Age, the poet and critic F. S. Flint (a champion of free verse and modern French poetry) was highly critical of the club and its publications. From the ensuing debate, Hulme and Flint became close friends. They started meeting with other poets at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Soho to discuss plans to reform contemporary through free verse and the tanka and haiku and the removal of all unnecessary verbiage from poems.

In April 1909, the American poet Ezra Pound was introduced to this group and found that their ideas were close to his own. In 1911, Pound introduced two other poets to the Eiffel Tower group, his ex-fiancée H.D and her future husband Richard Aldington. That same year, Harriet Munroe started her Poetry magazine and asked Pound to act as foreign editor. In October 1912, he submitted three poems each by H.D. and Aldington under the rubric Imagiste. That month Pound's book Ripostes was published with an appendix called The Complete Poetical Works of T. E. Hulme which carried a note that saw the first appearance of the word Imagiste in print. Aldington's poems were in the November issue of Poetry and H.D.'s in January 1913 and Imagism as a movement was launched. The March issue contained Pound's A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste and Flint's Imagisme. The latter contained this succinct statement of the group's position:

  1. Direct treatment of the "thing", whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

Des Imagistes

Determined to promote the work of the Imagists, and particularly of Aldington and H.D., Pound determined to publish an anthology under the title Des Imagistes. In addition to these two poets, he included work by himself, Flint, Skipwith Cannell, Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams]], James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, Allen Upward and John Cournos. The book was published in 1914 and met with little popular or critical success, partly because it had no introduction or commentary to explain what the poets were attempting to do.

Shortly after this publication, Pound and Flint fell out over their different interpretations of the history and goals of the group, and Pound was to play no further direct role in the history of the Imagists. He went on the co-found the Vorticists, an even more radical group of artists and writers.

Amy Lowell

Around this time, Amy Lowell (1874}}-[[1925) moved to London, determined to promote her own work and that of the other Imagist poets. Lowell was a wealthy heiress form Boston who loved Keats and cigars and who was an enthusiastic champion of literary experiment. She edited and published Imagist anthologies in 1915, 1916 and 1917, featuring most of the original poets with the exception of Pound. She also convinced D. H. Lawerence to contribute poems. [[Marianne Moore also became associated with the group at this time. The 1917 anthology effectively marked the end of the Imagists as a movement.

The Imagists After Imagism

The Imagist Anthology 1930, edited by Aldington, included all the contributors to the four earlier anthologies with the exception of Lowell, who had died, Cantwell, who had disappeared, and Pound, who declined. This anthology initiated a discussion of the place of the Imagists in the history of 20th century poetry.

Of the poets who were called Imagists, Joyce, Lawerence and Aldington are now primarily remembered and read as novelists. Marianne Moore, who was at best a fringe member, carved out a unique poetic voice for herself. William Carlos Williams developed his poetic along distinctly American lines with his variable foot and diction which he claimed was from 'the mouths of Polish mothers'. Both Pound and H.D. became interested in writing long poems but retained much of the hard edge to their language as an Imagist legacy. Most of the other members of the group are largely forgotten except inasmuch as they contributed directly to the history of Imagism.


External link