Imagist Poetry movement : in 20th century

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      The 'Imagist' movement was a direct revolt against the traditions of the Georgian poetry. The Georgians had of course their own definite conception of what the new poetry should be, but in none of them was there any real sign of dissatisfaction with the state of English poetry. Even around 1912 when the first anthology of Georgian poetry appeared, the consciousness of the need of a new outlook and new technique of poetic expression made itself felt by others and this found its chief advocate in T. E. Hulme (1883-1917). Hulme had a brilliant mind, richly endowed. He had many contacts with some of the leading literary men of the time, Ezra Pound (in America), Middleton Murry, H.W. Nevinson and Rupert Brooke.

The name Imagist was given by Ezra Pound to this new poetry. Hulme was much impressed by the vers libre (tree verse), which had given such freedom and novelty to the French poetry of 1890's and felt that this harmonised admirably with the new poetry that he proposed to set up.
Imagist Poetry

      Hulme was strongly anti-romantic, a foe to the vague romanticism that was sentimental about the soul and its cult of beauty. He denounced the Wordsworthian view of poetry as the 'spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions. In his lectures on poetry he said - "Poetry is an art, not a dumping-ground tor emotion." He denounced the romantic poets as 'sloppy'. The poetry of the future should relate itself of the world as perceived by the senses and to the presentation to its themes in a succession of clear, fresh, concise and accurate 'images (i.e metaphors) that call up a well-defined picture before the mind's eye. Poetry "is no more nor less than a mosaic of words." As a corollary to this there was a necessity of a new verse to express this changed outlook. Unless a new form was discovered, there would be only progressive decay and imitation.

      The name Imagist was given by Ezra Pound to this new poetry. Hulme was much impressed by the vers libre (tree verse), which had given such freedom and novelty to the French poetry of 1890's and felt that this harmonised admirably with the new poetry that he proposed to set up. The vers libre approaches more closely to the speech of everyday life in its rhythm than the traditional verse patterns. Besides, this new poetry was to be introspective; its purpose is to communicate momentary phases of the poet's mind and not some strong felt emotions. It was to be read silently rather than aloud. This was the new kind of poetry that was practised by Hulme and he has been called "the father of Imagism".

      Hulme wrote a few Imagist poems; his views were shared by Ezra Pound, who was an American, later on naturalised in England. The Imagist movement thus arose both in England and America. Some of the chief Imagist poets in English were H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) and her husband. Richard Aldington and F. S. Flint. H. D. kept her fiery faith for a long time, though others became lukewarm. She developed the manner into some of her best poetry which appeared in the 'forties'. The last volume of Imagist poetry, The Imagist Anthology appeared in 1930. This pursuit of very concise imagery and use of vers libre resulted in much obscurity and licence. This led to fierce criticism and the movement died out.

      The significance of the Imagist movement lies in the fact that it provided evidence that there were some poets who were more sensitive to the changing atmosphere in poetry than the Georgians. Ezra Pound refreshed poetic inspiration by turning away from Keats and Tennyson to the study of world poetry, past and present. H. D.'s models were Greek. Given new rhythms and new imagery, poetry had a rebirth on the Imagist lines in the wake of the World War. Its effect is clearly seen in works of D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot and the poets of the thirties (Auden and his group). Its limitation was that like the Decadents or Aesthetes these poets overemphasised the new technique at the cost of the subject-matter which was relatively unimportant to them. But the cult of direct, concise and clear treatment in a new rhythm was productive of much good in future English poetry. Imagism thus is not altogether a dead force.

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