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An Evocative Introduction to Modernity
on October 8, 2001
In a brief, accessible, and inexpensive book, Bob Blaisdell and Dover Thrift have created a fine selection of poems from the "Imagist" movement which changed the direction of American and English poetry in the early 20th Century. The precise nature of "Imagism" has been much discussed. Some of the more famous, succinct forumlations of its creed were "Not ideas of the thing but the thing itself." and, simply, "make it new". Imagism wanted to turn away from late 19th Century poetry with what the new writers perceived as its sometimes stilted diction, involuted syntax, forced rhymes, and forced sentiment and return to the object, to a way of seeing things freshly through precise speech. In Bob Blaisdell's brief introduction to this book, he discusses the principles of Imagism as Richard Aldington, the first poet to appear in the collection, formulated them: 1.Direct treatment of the subject; 2.As few adjectives as possible; 3. A hardness as of cut stone; 4. Individuality of rhythm; 5. A whole lot of dont's; 6. The exact word.
W.C. Williams's poem "To a Solitary Disciple" (page 137 of the collection) offers a good poetic summation of imagist practice. It begins:
"Rather notice, mon cher,
that the moon is
the point of the steeple
than that its color
that it is early morning
than that the sky
as a turquoise"
The collection includes 180 poems by 17 poets. The selections were culled from the pages of the "little magazines" of poetry that presented works of the new movement between 1913 and 1922. The poets receiving the most space are, understandably enough, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and W.C. Williams.
It will be a joy to a reader coming to these poets for the first time. The book also includes many lesser known but important writers such as Richard Aldington, H.D. Amy Lowell, and others. Thus the book, short and accessible as it is, does not constitute simply a collection of favorites. It is a fine introduction to imagism and to the spirit of our modern age including both well-known and lesser-known figures.
This book can be enjoyed and savored simply for what it is -- an inexpensive collection of many of the poems illustrating the modernist temprament. As such, the book will offer many hours of reading and rereading. Equally important, the book could also serve as an introduction for those who want to learn more, to explore further the development of American or English poetry in the Twentieth Century.