japonisme: flooded with moonlight

07 May 2008

flooded with moonlight

you might wonder or even assume that i continue to print poems by pound and williams and lorca and dickinson et al because they've always been my favorites, but i'd barely read any of them before (and i did read poetry; i edited a literary magazine for fifteen years). no, it's because this imagist movement of poetry was the english language version of japonisme.

"In America in 1912, the most common and popular poetry was called genteel because it was very well-behaved. Take, for example, this poem by Richard Watson Gilder.

The Woods that Bring the Sunset Near

The wind from out of the west is blowing
The homeward-wandering cows are lowing,
Dark grow the pine woods, dark and drear, —
The woods that bring the sunset near.


Around 1912 in London, some British and American poets led by Ezra Pound started a poetic movement called imagism. These poets reacted against genteel poetry, which they saw as sentimental, soft-edged, and emotionally dishonest. Instead, they advised, in Ezra Pound's formulation,

1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing,
’ whether subjective or objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.


In 1913, Pound added the following advice for aspiring imagist poets:

4. An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex
in an instant of time.

5. It is the presentation of such a 'complex' instantaneously which gives the sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience
in the greatest works of art.

6. It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

7. Use no superfluous word,
no adjective which does not reveal something.


8. Don't use such an expression as 'dim lands of peace.' It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer's not realizing that the natural object is always
the adequate symbol.

9. Go in fear of abstractions. Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose.


Imagist poems were influenced by Japanese haiku, poems of 17 syllables which usually present only two juxtaposed images. This poetry strives to suggests more than its literal meaning, yet avoids overt figurative devices like allegory and even metaphor." 1

see what you think:

"Mañana", dated 7 August 1918 in Fuente Vaqueros,
from Libro de Poemas:


But the song of water
is an eternal thing.
It is light turned into song
of romantic illusions.
It is firm and soft,
mild and full of heaven.
It is mist and it is rose
of the eternal morning.
Honey of the moon which flows
from buried stars.

What is the holy baptism
but God turned into water
to anoint our foreheads
with the blood of his mercy?
For some good reason Jesus
was confirmed in water.

For some good reason the stars
repose upon its waves.
For some good reason Venus

in its breast was engendered

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898–1936) 2

Midnight. No waves,

no wind, the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight.


Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) 3












(and in case you were wondering if lorca could be a reincarnation of dogen, i have provided a helpful aide.)

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10 Comments:

Blogger Jacob Russell said...

I hope someday you will think about bringing together your thoughts and images in a book.

A serious book... (by that I mean, not a "coffee table" volume).

What you are doing here deserves more than that.

Sign me up. I will buy a copy.

Your blog is itself, a work of art.

07 May, 2008 22:00  
Blogger the blue bicycle said...

dearest lotusgreen,

we must be on the same wave-length as i just posted a poem by ezra pound ... funny how that happens ....

when i write poetry (if i ever will again), i do try to make every word count. i learned from a published poet / professor about the 'art' of ruthless editing ...

however, sometimes the original meaning gets lost under all the red ink ....

lovely post as usual. i always enjoy stopping by - learning new things every day, here.

fondly,
lady blue

08 May, 2008 17:04  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks blue-- you know, this post was sparked by our exchange in comments yesterday

08 May, 2008 17:45  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

okay--i typed in this comment so early this morning that i couldn't keep my eyes open. i thought touch-typing would carry the day... but... so here's the edited version:

you are so kind, jacob, and of course i love to hear what you have to say.

re: a book--

1. i have done 5 books in the past.
2. books aren't books, from the editor/author's point of view.
3. they are endless administrations and arguments (permissions, you want to put a picture of *what* on the cover?, no, i liked it the way it was in before you edited it, etc.).
4. i may be becoming an expert in this subject but there are folks who are experts and they've all done books already.
5. i like to approach this like playing--going off in whatever direction that moves me....

but thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

08 May, 2008 17:49  
Blogger harlequinpan said...

The boat race is a wonderful image with great idea,love it very much,and i like the work of Nakamura.

10 May, 2008 01:57  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

My darling Lotusgreen,
zapped again by the beauty of
your work.

10 May, 2008 10:28  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks hp--i wonder if the paine one was inspired by the japanese one.

and yeah--nakamura--wouldn't you have guessed he was modern?

11 May, 2008 12:30  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks princess--i'm grateful you see it that way

11 May, 2008 14:13  
Blogger Princess Haiku said...

I like that you follow your intuition Lotusgreen, and post what you will. ..A wildflower garden.

I am sad because the dear gentleman who grew my chrysanthemums is soon to depart this world. He gave me flowers that will bloom forever in my heart. I am thinking of putting together a small book with chrysanthemum photos and musings; perhaps a few haiku. It was because of him that I began to follow the way of the Chrysanthemum.

Your blog is also like a flower to me. My aesthetic gratitude.

11 May, 2008 23:38  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

sorry to be so late in responding--my spacebar stopped working....

it sounds like a lovely commemorative idea, princess. and i'm sure you've given him as many gifts as he's given you.

14 May, 2008 15:21  

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