Saturday, August 26, 2006

"The Future of Poetry": An Editorial by Ransom with a Reply from Allen Tate

The Future of Poetry

The arts generally have had to recognize Modernism--how should poetry escape? And yet what is Modernism? It is undefined. Henry James stopped before a certain piece of sculpture to apostrophize "beautiful modern spirit"; but he did not attempt a definition where a more incompetent man would surely have done it.

In poetry the Imagists, in our time and place, made a valiant effort to formulate their program. Their modernist manifestoes were exciting, their practice was crude, as was becoming to pioneers, and instructive in more ways than they had intended.
They announced at least two notable principles.

In the first place, they declared for honesty of theme and accuracy of expression. Though a poem were but a single minor image, tactile, visual, auditory, or even gustatory, provided it was honest and accurate, they preferred it to the grand performance of the Cosmos-throned-by-Love order, where the whole nature of things was presented in orderly and elegant exposition, if here the conception or the diction came second-handed out of the schools. They spurned as their art-material the stilted platitudes, the sentimental clich├ęs, the taught relics of the other generations. They conceived the first duty of the Moderns as being to disembarrass poetry of its terrible incubus of piety, in the full classical sense of that term, and they rendered the service. more...

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