Monday, October 08, 2007

blame imagism

I continue to be fascinated by the reputation of imagism in later decades. Folks less rather than more knowledgeable about poetry - and who are also suspicious of modernism - tend to let imagism stand in for all of modernism. So no matter how inaccurate such substitution is, imagism, that fleeting movement, has had a disproportionate effect, less perhaps on later poets themselves than on poetry's reputation.

Robert Pinsky in The Situation in Poetry (1976) is an antimodernist. He's not adamant or overt about it, except at moments. One such moment is his assessment of imagism. He looked around at poetry in the 1970s and sadly found imagism's influence. "[T]he techniques of 'imagism,' which convey the powerful illusion that a poet presents, rather than tells about, a sensory experience" are "tormented premises" for poetry. Yet such premises have "become a tradition: a climate of implicit expectation and tacit knowledge" and this "aspect of modernism...effaces or holds back the warmth of authorial commitment to feeling or idea, in favor of a surface cool under the reader's initial touch."*

[] Some imagist materials.

* p. 3; thanks for Robert Archambeau's "Roads Less Traveled: Two Paths out of Modernism" in The Mechanics of Mirage: Postwar American Poetry (2000).