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Photo montage courtesy of bespokeclassroom.com

Welcome to DVerse, Poets! I am Frank Tassone, your host for today’s Meet the Bar, where we delve into poetic craft.

As a writer of Japanese poetry in English, I am fascinated with imagery. Finding the right words and phrases to capture the essence of a moment depends on conveying images, those mysterious appeals to the senses. While its importance to haikai cannot be understated, imagery transcends any one culture’s form of poetry. Throughout time and across the world, poets have employed imagery. one modern movement of poetry, however, utilized it as the cornerstone of its practitioners’ work: Imagism.

According to The American Academy of Poets:

Imagism was born in England and America in the early twentieth century. A reactionary movement against romanticism and Victorian poetry, imagism emphasized simplicity, clarity of expression, and precision through the use of exacting visual images.

You may have heard of some of the Imagists: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Amy Lowell. Others, perhaps, less so: Hilda Dolittle (H.D.), F.S. Flint, Ford Madox Ford. First brought together by American ex-patriate Erza Pound, the imagists inaugurated modernism with poetry that, in the words of Ezra Pound (as quoted by F.S. Flint in Poetry Magazine in 1913) followed these tenets:

I. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

Influenced both by Japanese and ancient Greek poetry, some of the Imagists’ work is striking in its minimalism, as well as its sensory appeal:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra Pound

The Red Wheelbarrow

William Carlos Williams – 1883-1963

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Stars Wheel in Purple

H. D. – 1886-1961

Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare

as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star

as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,

nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;

yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are

nor as Orion’s sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,

when all the others blighted, reel and fall,

your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst

to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a poem utilizing the aesthetics of the Imagists. Use free verse, imagery, a focus on the “thing” of you choosing, and an economy of language in service of your presentation. As a haijin, I welcome the use of Japanese haikai forms, of course, even if they are not free verse forms. If you are writing haiku, however, write at least two in a sequence. Additionally, if you are enamored of Sappho’s Greek lyric, have at it. Otherwise, keep it free verse.

Remember: let your imagery tell the story (or sing the song) of your poem. As William Carlos Williams said, “No ideas but in things.”

New to dVerse? Here’s what you do:

  • Write a poem in the aesthetic of the Imagists
  • Post it on your personal site/blog
  • Include a link back to dVerse in your post.
  • Copy your link onto the Mr. Linky
  • Remember to click the small checkbox about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.

Have fun!