Poetry Challenge 20, Imagery: Post Thy Poems
Note: If you come here following a link from a Curator email, the 12-poem flash challenge is elsewhere. Follow this link.
The challenge is to steal some technique from the old Imagists, and write a full, unsubtracted poem with that technique of intense crystalline imagery.
What is an Image? Here are the basics. It’s like a simile, but visual. Where a simile says “A is like B,” an Image says, “A looks like B.”
You don’t have to actually use the words “looks like,” and it’s better if you don’t.
“A cat’s footprints in the snow; purple plum blossoms.” That’s a perfect example; and the original, in an Asian language, was a poem.
But our challenge today is to use Imagery in an “Unsubtracted Poem.” We are not modernists. Don’t subtract the rhyme or alliteration. Don’t subtract the meter or rhythm. Don’t subtract the rhetoric and the poetic diction. Put it all together.
Go a little deeper into the Idea of Image? C. S. Lewis’ essay “Image and Imagination” is always recommended.
A little deeper into Imagism? Well. If you want to lean on Ezra Pound, by far the most brilliant poet who was ever an Imagist, you go past the description in words of a picture, and you go into the Image that is actually an Idea. (Lewis would agree so far.) You grasp that this is a Westernization or Anglicization of Asian poetic technique, which is minimalist and delicate for concentrated impact. You understand that, although literary historians talk about Imagism merely as a way-station on the road to fully subtracted Modernism with its extremes of Classicist hardness and spareness, Pound himself wanted something violently renewed, a neo-traditionalism that would refresh and not just revisit, and a marriage of those two opposite artistic tendencies: Romanticism and Classicism.
Then again, if you simply back up and squint at the group of poets Pound so enthusiastically herded up together as examples of his ideas – people who stopped at Imagism, or traveled along easily with whatever came next – you can see that what the Image is about is simply – a picture. Blossoms on a bough, red wheelbarrows and white chickens, whatever. And for this challenge, that’s enough. If you want it to be.
So which direction do we go with this?
Well, for us Imagery will never be a poetic “school” – because poetic schools all make the same mistake. They take a single poetic technique and try to say that technique IS the poem, and everything else is extraneous.
It all started with the French Symbolists, apparently, and their desperate desire to let art be more than art – to let it be something Ultimate (like, impossibly, a Symbol that refers to itself.) So you dig out the diamond from the crown and you make it float in the air high above the throne and you open all the windows and position all the mirrors and make all the light shine right through that diamond from every angle – and that blinding white spot is a poem. Meanwhile, no one can see faces or thrones or baskets or silver spoons or tapestries. And besides, every school said a different technique was a diamond, and threw the rest away as mere golden rubbish.
We are trying to have the whole crown back.
But today let’s shine a little extra light on the gem of Imagery – and I do mean painting words with pictures. And then if we can take it a little further, let several Imagery gems focus light on one another, suggesting a Meaning.
We could have meaning in lots of ways, and because we are Unsubtracted Poets, we will. Some other time. Today, we can have it this way.
The challenge opens now, and remains open forever. Post your poems in the comment section below.