Imagism briefly defined

Al Filreis

Name given to a movement in poetry, originating in 1912 and represented by Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and others, aiming at clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images. In the early period often written in the French form Imagisme.

The Imagists wrote succinct verse of dry clarity and hard outline in which an exact visual image made a total poetic statement. Imagism was a successor to the French Symbolist movement, but, whereas Symbolism had an affinity with music, Imagism sought analogy with sculpture. In 1914 Pound turned to Vorticism, and Amy Lowell largely took over leadership of the group. Among others who wrote Imagist poetry were John Gould Fletcher and Harriet Monroe; and Conrad Aiken, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, D.H. Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot were influenced by it in their own poetry.

The four Imagist anthologies (Des Imagistes, 1914; Some Imagists, 1915, 1916, 1917), and the magazines Poetry (from 1912) and The Egoist (from 1914), in the United States and England, respectively, published the work of a dozen Imagist poets.

From an Imagist manifesto:
  1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
  2. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.
  3. Absolute freedom in the choice of subject.
  4. To present an image. We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real difficulties of his art.
  5. To produce a poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
  6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.