Article Index






I am grateful to Rupert Arrowsmith, Eiichi Hara, and Dorsey Kleitz for conversations written and spoken which have helped with this essay. Errors and indiscretions, of course, are mine.

1 Extensive critical study of Imagism precedes extensive critical study of Pound. The first book-length work on Imagism, by Glenn Hughes in 1931, would not be anyone’s starting point now, but it remains readable. In that year only one monograph, a thirty-one page pamphlet, had been produced on Pound, the originally-anonymous Ezra Pound: His Metric and Poetry of 1918, which of course turned out to have been written by T. S. Eliot, under Pound’s guidance. Twenty years later the second major critical study of Imagism appeared, Stanley Coffman’s Imagism: A Chapter for the History of Modern Poetry, 1951, and even then only two further monographs had been published on Pound. Alice Steiner Amdur’s The Poetry of Ezra Pound of 1936 was a sideshow in several ways. The other, the third monograph on Pound, published in the same year as Coffman’s Imagism, was Hugh Kenner’s The Poetry of Ezra Pound, the book which “got Pound listed on the academic stock exchange” as James Laughlin later put it (xii), and which opened the floodgates to Pound scholarship. But despite Kenner’s dismissal of the importance of Imagism to Pound, he was not able to close the gates on continued study of Imagism. The third major book followed in 1975, J. B. Harmer’s Victory in Limbo: A History of Imagism, 1908-1917, then John Gage’s In the Arresting Eye: The Rhetoric of Imagism in 1981, then Daniel Tiffany’s Radio Corpse: Imagism and the Cryptaesthetic of Ezra Pound in 1995, then Helen Carr’s Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H. D. and the Imagists in 2009, then Andrew Thacker’s much slighter The Imagist Poets in 2011. Along the way have been other book-length studies of Imagism in relation to particular poets, many dozens of studies in dozens of journals and book chapters, more pre-1980 postgraduate theses from American university English departments than any other subject save Yeats’s debts to Noh—and until 1967 more of these on Imagism and Sandburg than Imagism and Pound—and post-1980 more than on any other subject save studies set in orbit by Edward Said’s Orientalism. The list of titles includes some which would play well on the comedy-club circuit, and in this way a part of the problem is exactly the opposite of Imagism having been “little studied.” In books from Hughes to, especially, Carr, and in many journal articles and book chapters along the way, though, Imagism often has been studied extraordinarily well. It is a subject rich enough that it may continue to be studied well, as the Gery, Kempton, and Stoneback volume itself demonstrates.

2 Pound’s melopoeia, phanopoeia, and logopoeia have a convoluted lineage. In the 1920 Instigations, the text to which Shakespeare primarily turns, Pound calls his three “sorts” of poetry melopoeia, imagism, and logopoeia. Phanopoeia is not mentioned, although Pound by then had published a poem under the title “Phanopoeia” in Little Review, November 1918. By 1929 in “How to Read,” the text to which Gery will turn later in the volume, Pound has replaced “imagism” with “phanopoeia.” A comparison of texts makes clear that the concept is the same, even though the terminology is not. In the ABC of Reading (1934) Pound explains the shift: “I have taken to using the term phanopoeia to get away from irrelevant particular connotations tangled with a particular group of young people who were writing in 1912” (52).

3 I almost feel sorry for Lowell. I may be nearly alone among people who study Pound in admiring some of her poetry. She has been much revived in recent years after years of obscurity, in new editions of selected poems, new critical studies, and new biographies, and some of those who have done the reviving revile Pound, but the interest has been occasioned more by her cigars and sexuality than her vers libre and poetic theories. In this volume she is mentioned several times in Carr’s Introduction, but in each case in gendered, not literary terms, and in passing by others. Only Carr mentions the title of one of her poems. No one quotes one.

4 For most of it see Achilles Fang, “Fenollosa and Pound,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 20 (1957): 213-38; Akiko Miyake, “A Note on So-shu,” Paideuma 6 (1977): 325-28; Eva Hesse, “New Light on Old Problems,” Paideuma 7 (1978): 179-83; Forrest Read, “‘When will they ever learn …’: So-Shu Again,” Paideuma 9 (1980): 327-28; and Michelle F. Cooper, “Ezra Pound and the Japanese Cosmogony,” Paideuma 14 (1985): 259-72. Terrell braves a stand in Companion vol. 1 (5), but read the entry to see the nature of the confusion. The best guesses of Chinese scholars seem to be that “So-shu” in Canto 2 probably is a corrupt Japanese reading of Zhuang Zhou (莊周), also known as Zhuangzi (莊子), who was indeed a 4th century BC Taoist philosopher. Araujo’s “So-Shu” is in reference to Pound’s poem “Ancient Wisdom” which appeared in Blast 2 (22), in which “So-Shu’s” dream of becoming a butterfly, according to several sources, has a corollary in a passage in the writing of Zhuang Zhou.

5 See my “Instigations of Ezra Pound by Ernest Fenollosa.”

6 “Remy de Gourmont” 419; “D’Artagnan Twenty Years After” 452; EP&J 113.

7 Two earlier critics, Taketomo and Schwartz, in all-but-forgotten periodical articles of 1920 and 1928, had made reference to a likeness between Pound’s Imagist verse and hokku, but their claims were far less grandiose and immeasurably less influential than Kenner’s. Among the most knowledgeable responses to such misunderstandings remains Kanaseki, who as early as 1967, and with considerable eloquence, already had grown weary of their repetition.

8 Some confusion on this point has entered the discussion, but three is the correct number.  Bush, citing Slatin, has Pound between September 1914 and April 1916 “five times suggest[ing] a connection between the Noh plays and his projected long poem” (Genesis 104), and this has been repeated several times. In fact it was four, the three I quote here, which explicitly bring Imagism into the equation, and a fourth which does not, a still unpublished letter Pound sent to Harriet Monroe early in 1916 in which he wrote that his long poem in progress would have “roughly the theme of [the Noh play] Takasago” (first qtd. in Slatin 186; for more on this see especially EP/ACH xxii-xxvii, 107-17, and Houwen). Bush’s extra fifth reference is understandable to anyone following the thread. It involves an April 1916 letter from Pound to his mother, quoted in Slatin, in which Pound wrote that he was “doing some ‘Noh’ of [his] own” (EP/P 367). For about twenty years this was taken by several critics, in the wider context not unreasonably, to be a reference to The Cantos. But then Donald Gallup found in the Pound Archive at Yale and in 1987 published Pound’s 1916 Plays Modelled on the Noh, which shifted the context of the 1916 letter. It was not a reference to early Cantos. Pound was doing some Noh of his own.