Article Index









The collective strengths of the volume are many. First among them is the degree to which it positions Pound decisively at its center, which is as it should be. Amy Lowell may have won the battle of 1914 but the victory is Pound’s in 2014.3 Each of the thirteen essays has Pound at or near its heart, and several provide compelling new readings of Pound’s work itself. Kishbaugh, Araujo, Puhak, Shakespeare, and especially Gery address in clear terms the ways Pound’s Imagism opens directly into his later work, Puhak, Shakespeare, and Gery in particular by demonstrating the degree to which Pound’s Imagism may be seen as informing The Cantos. Puhak’s reading of the “radiant node” as related to the light which passes through a lens, as noted above, carries it into The Cantos. Shakespeare finds that the element of time Pound found in “the ancient musicians” is intrinsic to “the eternal oneness inherent in human expression [which] rules over time travel in The Cantos” (84). And Gery’s essay both begins and ends with thoughtful lines about Imagism opening into The Cantos. “Just glancing through The Cantos . . .reveals how Pound’s brief but intense engagement with the Imagist aesthetic remained with him for the rest of his life,” Gery writes in his opening sentence (109), and implications of this opening line are a subtle preoccupation through the whole of the fine essay.

     A second major collective strength of the volume is that with one exception to which I shall turn below it is refreshingly free of appeals to authority in preference to reading primary sources, the work of Pound himself, for example. This is rarer than is ordinarily supposed. In a sense, the subject of the collection itself necessitates the point. One cannot rely on appeals to Hugh Kenner, for example, if one wants to claim much for Imagism in general. “The history of Imagism is a red herring,” Kenner wrote in The Poetry of Ezra Pound in 1951 (58), and by The Pound Era of 1971 nothing much had changed. The latter contains a chapter entitled “Imagism” which gives away several of its best Kennerian lines on the first page, beginning with its clever three-word opening paragraph: “A divagation here.” This is followed by the “enigmatic stone called ‘Imagism’” which “created and continues to create its distracting turbulence” and which “made Imagism seem to occupy Pound’s mind much longer than it did” (173). Kenner places the end of Imagism for Pound in mid-1913, when he sent the Des Imagistes manuscript to Kreymborg in New York. Beyond this, we have the obligatory reference to “the Japanese hokku” and those petals on that bough already piled very high (184-85), and then further volleys through to the closing shot:

     A Movement in part defines one’s company, and Imagism, invented to launch H. D., soon entailed negotiating with dim and petulant people: Fletcher, say, or Flint, or Aldington, and eventually Miss Lowell. It is folly to pretend, in the way of historians with books to fill, that they were of Pound’s stature. Vorticism implied his alliance with his own kind: Gaudier, Lewis. (191)

     But the Wizard of Ez was not right about everything. My point is not only that four contributors to the collection directly question Kenner, Carr gently (2), Araujo pointedly (47), Shakespeare cautiously (83, 87, 89n), and Stoneback with a wink (169), or that these and other contributors challenge other determiners of the secondary discourse about Pound. A second and related part of the point is that the collection in general, with few exceptions, spares its readers a tiresome parade of “as A has shown,” “as B observes,” “as C points out,” “as D has argued,” “as E concludes,” and also that this avoidance directly points to a third major collective strength of the volume.

     From beginning to end, the collection turns to close reading both of central and non-canonical texts which illuminate the nature of the initiation, impact, and influence of Imagism, sometimes in surprising ways. I am thinking particularly of Hadjiyiannis not only on Hulme’s relatively well known essays and Storer’s “Essay” appended to Mirrors of Illusion, but also the reading of the hardly-known-at-all political articles which both Hulme and Storer contributed to the conservative weekly Commentator in 1911 and 1912; also Kishbaugh’s careful attention to Des Imagistes; also Araujo on seldom-discussed poems in the 1915 “War Issue” of Blast; also Puhak not only on lesser-studied poems by H. D. and Pound but also on all-but-forgotten scientific works of the nineteenth century which were in the air as H. D. and Pound were writing them; also Saunders in understated mastery of every word either Pound or Ford wrote on Impressionism; also Gery on “How to Read” and then reading it in retrograde back at Pound’s Imagist principles; also Welsch on the whole of Williams. I have left out some in this list of particularities, but every essay in the collection reads carefully a text or set of texts which in other hands would have been passed off to the authority of the authorities, either reproducing the already-written or, in some cases, anyway, leaving that-which-would-illuminate unmentioned and unread at all.