Imagism in Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore

Q) What philosophy do Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore share? A) Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore were all modernist poets. Modernist poetry deals with experiment and innovation. All three were imagists, though at a later stage, William Carlos Williams started disagreeing with Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound Ezra Pound was the most aggressive of the modernist poets, who made “Make it new! ” his battle cry. He turned to classical Chinese poetry as his source for inspiration.

He was the most influential figures of the modernist period, and influenced contemporaries like W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D, James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway, and most importantly, T. S. Eliot. He promulgated a movement in poetry called Imagism, a movement which derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, and which stressed clarity, precision, and economy of language, forgoing traditional rhyme and metre in order to, in Pound’s words, “compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of metronome. ”

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Pound evolved Imagism as a reaction against abstraction and Victorian generalities in favour of the precision and clarity found in Japanese haiku and ancient Greek lyrics. His promulgation of Imagism was aided largely by his encounter with Noh theatre of Japan, and the Chinese written character in the work of the scholar Ernest Fenollosa whose papers were entrusted to him by Fenollosa’s widow. An example of his imagist poetry is given below: Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth, Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes. – “L’art 1910” The above poem is perhaps the shortest dramatic monologue on record.

This poem presents the poet/speaker and his interlocutor before a painting (assumption from the clashing colours on the white cloth). That bright green and red stand in contrast to the canvas. The language registers shock value of the paining (“smeared”, “crushed”) but it is evident that the speaker enjoys the shock and outrageousness and calls upon the interlocutor to do as well. Now let us take another example: The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings And I let down the crystal curtain And watch the moon through the clear autumn. -“The Jewel Stairs’ Grievance”

Here, were find strong images that creates a beautiful visual effect. “Jewel Stairs” may be taken as a “palace”, therefore “jewelled steps” as the steps of the palace; “grievance” as something to complain of; “gauze stockings”, therefore it is a court lady complaining and not a servant; “Clear autumn”, which means that whoever the court lady is waiting for has not arrived and since its clear autumn he has no excuse of the weather. Yet she has come early as the “dew” has not merely whitened but “soaked” her stockings. This poem is prized as a beautiful example of Imagist poetry, with its visuals making impact upon the reader.

In 1914 Pound started another movement called Vorticist movement, which had a lasting influence of English culture. The style was derived from Cubism (an avant-garde European movement that revolutionized painting and sculpture). Like Cubist artworks, Vorticism were poems in a whirlpool of histories, voices and luminous details. If we take a look at the dominant themes in Pound’s poetry, we find a sense of alienation, the nature of poetry and of himself as a poet, as well as religious affiliations. Ripostes is a collection of 25 poems by Pound published in 1912, dedicated to William Carlos Williams.

It is the first collection in which Pound moves towards the economy of language and clarity of imagery of the Imagism movement, and was the first time he used the word “Imagiste”. Some of Pound’s best poems are those in which he speaks of the nature of poetry and of himself as poet. For instance, the longer poem, “In Durance”, from Personae is a record of Pound’s sense of alienation and exile. I am homesick after mine own kind, Oh I know that there are folk about me, friendly faces, But I am homesick after mine own kind We can perceive Pound’s alienation and estrangement from his social commonplace

We thus see that most importantly Ezra Pound propagated Imagism, which he devotedly used in his own poems. William Carlos Williams Following Pound, Williams was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement. His poetry became more concise, imagistic and colloquial in the mid-1910s. He was writing free verse that paralleled and was undoubtedly influenced by Pound’s Imagist prescription for compression and concreteness. Williams’ use of Nature as a subject, part of his romantic inheritance, exemplifies Pound’s dictum that “the natural object is always the adequate symbol”.

In The Tempers (1913) Williams moved away from his old poetic mode toward the Imagist urban pastorals of Al Que Quiere! (1917). This volume is now recognized as Williams’ first significant movement into a modernist poetics. The best poems that came as a result of Williams’ imaginative breakthrough were Spring and All, To Elsie, and The Red Wheelbarrow, which assert the importance of attention to overlooked people and things of American culture. Dadaistic irrelevance is apparent in the typographical irregularities, non-linear arrangement of chapters and incomplete sentences. Let us take The Red Wheelbarrow for an imagist analysis. o much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. This is Williams’ most critically acclaimed poem. It is very simple in language yet very elegant in style. There is no punctuation or title, only minimal diction and modest in internal rhyme. By the end of the poem, the reader sees the wheelbarrow is seen as the actual poem, as in a painting. In lines 3-4 we see the image of the wheelbarrow which is painted red. The next two lines impress upon the reader that it has just finished raining, and makes the wheelbarrow more prominent with the glazing effect post-rain.

We realize that the wheelbarrow is wet, but will dry up soon. The last two lines brings another colour “white” to the reader. The chicken standing beside the wheelbarrow are white in colour. They probably just came out into the open after the rain, which has cleansed them of dirt and made their feathers more white. In the poem, the rain may also be compared to poetry, or the wheelbarrow may be seen as the representation of one of the simplest machines in history which is losing its significance in the present day world. The chickens may be seen as a source of life, one of the simplest pleasures in the world.

Williams was relegated only to the second position by the New Critical establishment in the second half of the 20th century who defined Modernist poetry as High Modernism of Eliot, Pound and Yeats. William was only given the rank of experimental and regional poets. However, later, poetic enthusiast and students began to perceive the importance of Williams in Imagist poetry Finding connection Whitman and an alternative to the formally complex and intellectually dense poetry of Eliot and his disciples. Marianne Moore Marianne Moore was another from the canon of modernist, experimental poets—a contemporary of Pound, Williams, Eliot and Stevens.

She opposed Benito Mussolini and Fascism and from the start and objected to Pound’s anti-semitism. She was particularly fond of animals, and much of her imagery is drawn from the natural world. Moore was widely recognized for her work and became a celebrity in the New York literary circles. She wrote with the freedom characteristic of other modernist poets, often incorporating quotes from other sources into the text, yet her use of language was always extraordinarily condensed and precise, capable of suggesting a variety of ideas and associations with a single, compact image.

Like other Modernists and Imagists, Moore seeks accuracy of statement, precision and exact presentation. The alleged difficulty of her work arises not from abstruse symbolism, reference or obscure autobiographical matters, but because she does not use expected phrasings and hence one needs to read slowly and thoughtfully to understand and enjoy her work “Poetry” is one of Moore’s best known and most anthologized poems. Several versions of it appeared, the last one being just four lines long, in the Complete Poems of 1967.

This poem is an articulation of Moore’s view that metre, or anything else, that claims the exclusive title of “poetry”, is not as important as delight in language and precision, heartfelt expression in any form, that poetry is a matter of skill and honesty in any form whatsoever, while anything written poorly, although is perfect form, cannot be poetry. “nor till poets among us can be ‘literalists of the imagination’- -above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’”. Moore is of the opinion that a poet must be able to create an imaginary garden and put real toads in it.

This is how poetry is formed. They must be able to create an imaginary world in their minds that appears to be real. Such a force of imagination is necessary to avoid uselessness. If one observes the imagery, we can see the modernist approach in Moore’s Poetry. He believes more in the forcefulness of imagination than simply perfecting the metre. Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore share the common Modernist approach to poetry, moving from the iambic pentameter to vers libre (free verse), symbolism, and other new forms of writing. They try to render human subjectivity in more authentic ways than realism.

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