VICTORY IN LIMBO: A History of Imagism 1908-1917 by J. B. Harmer

VICTORY IN LIMBO: A History of Imagism 1908-1917

Email this review


Anatomy of an aesthetic: from originator (T. E. Hulme) to entrepreneur (Ezra Pound) and finally diluter (Amy Lowell) with friends along the way (F. S. Flint, Padraic Colum, Richard Aldington, H. D., Ford Madox Ford, D. H. Lawrence. . .)--so heavily documented that the interaction among them is virtually palpable. Harmer places the seminal London Poets' Club against the backdrop of the effete and stylized verses of the Edwardians. Despite his tribute to T. E. Hulme, it was the introduction of Pound to the club that galvanized the London group around the word Imagist (or Imagiste)--and what else binds a literary movement except a coincidence in history and acceptance of a common name? This point is developed in an attempt to define what that term may have meant to its practitioners. There was talk of concreteness, talk of austerity, but all they finally shared was a commitment to vets libre and a reaction against the sentimental effusions into which 19th century literature had descended. Harmer's account of their intellectual borrowings--French, Classical, biblical, Sine-Japanese--is a model of how misunderstanding generates creativity. Kindly, he doesn't bother much with Lowell and the ""Amygists"" but follows Imagism into our period with the Black Mountain poets, Rexroth, and--rock star Jim Morrison? Well, Harmer's British, and sometimes cultural values don't travel well. . . . Despite all that, he's written an intelligent and enjoyable history of the gestation--among the manifestos, anthologies, little reviews, quarrels, alliances and the muddled rantings of that busybody Pound--of the modern poetic sensibility.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's