imagists

imagists, group of English and American poets writing from 1909 to about 1917, who were united by their revolt against the exuberant imagery and diffuse sentimentality of 19th-century poetry. Influenced by classicism, by Chinese and Japanese poetry, and by the French symbolists, the imagists stated that poetic ideas are best expressed by the actual rendering of concrete images without superfluous commentary. They held the poet must embody his feelings in specific physical analogies that exactly convey his meaning. He must produce a hard, clear, concentrated poetry, free of stilted and artificial vocabulary, meter, and imagery. Ezra Pound, as head of the group, edited the anthology Des Imagistes (1914) and gained control of the Egoist (1913–19), which became the principle imagist journal. Pound soon left imagism for other artistic and political causes, but imagism continued to flourish, through the efforts of Richard Aldington, Hilda Doolittle, D. H. Lawrence, and John Gould Fletcher. James Joyce published in three imagist anthologies (1915, 1916, 1917). In its revival of the clarity and conciseness of classical poetry and in its general liberating effect on literature, imagism has been an important influence on 20th-century poetry.

See Imagist Anthology (1930, repr. 1970); P. Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry (1973); study by G. Hughes (1960).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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