At last night’s writing group session we attempted to get to grips with the ideas of the Imagists – a movement that spanned 1912 – 17. No small order in a short two hour session.
I have to take the brunt of the blame. I recently wrote a poem called The Doe (you will note that I write anything but what I am supposed to be concentrating on). It was about an incredibly frosty morning in the fields when I disturbed a doe that had been resting in a bramble thicket. As usual with a first draft it contained image piled on image in an attempt to put over exactly what I had seen and what I had felt.
When I read it aloud for the first time, I realised two things. One that the people listening were frowning and two, that it was too difficult to read…there was just too much of it. It was over blown. Added to this was the effect of hearing Motion read ‘Death of Harry Patch’ a poem that I have mentioned far too often in this blog as one that affected me because of its simplicity.
And so I went searching on the web and discovered the Imagists…Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, William Jay Smith and my favourite, (on short acquaintance anyway), Langston Hughes.
The basic idea seems to have started, and I really would like to be corrected if I am wrong as this is new to me, with T E Hulme in the early nineteen hundreds reacting against the abstract language and ‘excess verbiage’ of Georgian Romanticism. I quote,
“The first tenet of the Imagist manifesto was to use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly exact, nor the merely decorative word.”
As I began to read such poems as ‘The Red Wheelbarrow (William Carlos Willliams); The City (Langston Hughes); Apartment House (Gerald Rafferty); The Toaster (William Jay Smith), I began to really enjoy myself.
The freshness, the ease of understanding, the depth of feeling conveyed in simple language was an eye-opener. The musicality, especially of Langston Hughes, is a joy.
And then I found Ezra Pound’s poem about the First World War – ‘These fought in Any Case’…some of the lines are so powerful, the thoughts spare and meaningful as he listed –
“Daring as never before, wastage as never before.”
…and I knew that I had to overhaul the way I write. Clarify my thoughts and do better justice to the subjects – the doe deserves better from me.