BK. Ezra Pound

12. ‘Vorticism’. Fortnightly Review NS 96 (September 1914): 461-71.

Reprinted in Gaudier-Brzeska.

Pound’s most fully-formed definition of Imagist and Vorticist principles arrives at two remarkable conclusions about Japanese literature and its possibilities for enlivening English verse. First, he describes his derivation of the ‘form of super-position’ from the ‘hokku’, a ‘one-image’ poem with one ‘idea’ super-posed ‘on top of’ another, citing in example Moritake’s ‘The fallen blossom’ (rakka eda ni . . .) and Pound’s own ‘hokku-like sentence’ that had appeared earlier as In a Station of the Metro (3). Pound was able to distil this poem from a longer work of ‘secondary intensity’, he writes, after having understood the ‘beauty’ of this Japanese ‘sort of knowing’. Secondly, at the beginning of a long footnote, Pound cites the nô in evidence of the possibility of a ‘long imagiste or vorticist poem’, an idea to which he would return in later critical writing (see also 17f, 87, 112, 161, and 165): ‘In the best “Noh” the whole play may consist of one image. I mean it is gathered about one image, enforced by movement and music. [So] I see nothing against a long vorticist poem’. These perceptions of the super-posed image of the hokku and the unity of imagery of the nô are now taken for granted in both Western and Japanese scholarship (though see A40), but had not been noted before in Europe or America, and both have changed the course of twentieth-century verse in English. The ‘form of super-position’ may be traced through Pound’s work and that of many of his contemporaries and followers (see notes at 3), and effects of the intuition that a long poem may be ‘gathered about one image’ may be traced not only in The Cantos, but the work of Eliot, Yeats, and others (see especially BK92b and BL11 and 12). Reprinted in Gaudier-Brzeska (New York: Lane, 1916; reprint, New York: New Directions, 1970). For related commentary see also A2, BH4a-b, BK1, 4, 10, 11, 14, 145, 160, 171, 185, 195, BL191, 192, and D15e5-6.





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