*’image’. ‘complex’. ‘VORTEX’. part (ii): *the image,… —the fragment. …

*(… —follows on from *‘the image.—vs. Platonic ressentiment’, ‘—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental “classicism”’, *‘the “classical”.—vs. the “romantic” (in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme.)’, and *‘“image”. “complex”. “VORTEX” (i): the exact word.’).

 

—As I wrote in the nervous and slightly rambling introductory comments to my last post, … I’ve had (I’ve felt) a great deal of difficulty in revising and restructuring this portion of what I want to in-with this blog project. … —I still have a vague anxiety over the quality and depth of my engagement with Pound and the Imagists here, and the… justice I feel I’m not really doing to the material. …

 

—What follows here is new material: pieced together from notes and from excised-discarded fragments of proposed chapters and portions of my doctoral thesis. …

 

*—It’s an attempt to read Imagist poetry, in light of my reading of the key philosophical and aesthetic claims of their ‘manifestoes’ and against what I see as the prevailing tendency amongst critics and Modernist scholars to dismiss the poetic output of the Imagists as a disappointment, when weighed against the force and potential of their creed. …

 

So then, …

 

*the image,… —the fragment. …

 

 

*I want to move on now to take a few examples from the Imagist canon (so to).

 

 

*The most obvious… move here would be (I feel) to take the tried and tested route (so to) of, first, reading Pound’s ‘A Station of the Metro’—by far the most famous and instantly recognisable of the Imagist poems, and then to move on to take examples from H.D.’s work (—for example, ‘Oread’)—again, one of the most famous and widely acknowledged and quoted of the participants in Imagism, and examples of Imagist poems.

 

 

*Instead, I’ll take two poems from John Gould Fletcher, and one from Amy Lowell, in order to examine the execution of the aesthetic demands-dicta of the manifesto(es)… and, in particular (especially), their relationship to *the form of the fragment. …

 

 

John Gould Fletcher

The Skaters

To A.D.R.

Black swallows swooping or gliding

In a flurry of entangled loops and curves;

The skaters skim over the frozen river.

And the grinding click of their skates as they

     impinge upon the surface,

Is like the brushing together of thin wing-tips

     of silver.

*(S.I.P. 1916; I.P., 70).

 

 

*—I want to draw attention first to the stasis, isolation and the—detachment of the poetic ‘voice’ or ‘person’, created here,… —a voice nonetheless implicated to be present in-to the scene. …

 

The poem presents a simple scene: a voice, seemingly detached from and observing the scene, simply indicates the detail of black swallows flying over a group of skaters, skating over a stretch of frozen river.

 

*—‘Skaters’ is marked by an exclusive focus on the (‘objective’) detail of scene *(that is,… —a scene evoked precisely through this focus on detail… ), without obvious (ostentatious) reflection. … —no description, allusion, or reaching for significance,… *—merely (so to) a kind of staged transposition. …

 

*The poem is… spartan. … —There is a cleanliness and concision to the presentation of the cold,… —empty(?), quiet pathos of the scene (—a spare-ness, so to, of economy).

 

The observation and description are simple, definite, and atomic, and yet not without rhythm:… ‘Black swallows’. … —they are simply that: black.—There is nothing more here to them,… —they are merely a part of a scene, or view (—a detail). …

 

… —Strangely and beautifully cleanly geometric—angular—and static (staid, cool, reserved), even in its description of movement. … *—an impression of (made by) movement: ‘swooping’, ‘gliding’, ‘skim’… *—‘loops and curves’.

 

There is a sort of sharp, clean staccato (—onomatopoeic) to the transposition of sound (sense): ‘grinding click’, and, again, a solid geometry: *‘impinge – upon – the – surface’. …

 

And, again,… —the attempt at an exact transposition of the impression of the… sharp,—thin, and slight … powdery and rasping (fibrous?) sound of metallic contact, that sparks off the (admittedly perhaps somewhat precious) simile-image of the brushing silver wing-tips.

 

 

*(—From Irradiations: Sand and Spray [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915])…

VII

Flickering of incessant rain

On flashing pavements:

Sudden scurry of umbrellas:

Bending, recurved blossoms of the storm.

[…]

And the rustling of innumerable translucent leaves

(I.P., 72).

 

 

*Again, …

 

The scene (so to) of the poem here is the simple capturing of mundane everyday moment,— from the perspective or location of an isolated poetic ‘voice’, in a position or, perhaps (rather) a—demeanour of (cool, reserved) detachment, and yet nonetheless implicated to be in, or to be present to-for the scene.

 

And what is presented is simply the (sensuous) details of the scene …

 

*—The sense-impression(s) of the rain: … —its ‘flickering’,

 

… —the (intermittently) shining reflective surface *(and, again, for Gould Fletcher, there is an emphasis on the solid geometry of surface here … )… —that strange illusory quality of seeming depth (of the reflected space above) and seeming translucence—created on the (damp) stone of the pavements by reflected light.

 

—The slightly hurried (and again, almost onomatopoeic description of the) movements of pedestrians: *‘Sudden scurry’. …

 

And, finally, the umbrellas,… —seemingly tilting into (—against) the incessant rain, which evokes (for the poetic voice) the image of the ‘Bending, recurved blossoms’ in a storm. …

 

Amy Lowell

Spring Day

(extract)

Midday and Afternoon

Swirl of crowded streets. Shock and recoil of traffic. The stock-still brick façade of an old church, against which the waves of people lurch and withdraw. Flare of sunshine down side-streets. Eddies of light in the windows of chemists’ shops, with their blue, gold, purple jars, darting colours far into the crowd. Loud bangs and tremors, murmurings out of high windows, whirling of machine belts, blurring of horses and motors. A quick spin and shudder of brakes on an electric car, and the jar of a church bell knocking against the metal blue of the sky. I am a piece of the town, a bit of blown dust, thrust along with the crowd. Proud to feel the pavement under me, reeling with feet. Feet tripping, skipping, lagging dragging, plodding doggedly, or springing up and advancing on firm elastic insteps. A boy is selling papers, I smell them clean and new from the press. They are fresh like the air, and pungent as tulips and narcissus.

   The blue sky pales to lemon, and great tongues of gold blind the shop-windows putting out their contents in a flood of flame.

*(S.I.P. 1916; I.P., 88).

 

 

Again, in Lowell’s fragment, though there is a greater wealth of detail here, and a more frenetic and peopled energy to the urban scene than in the selections from Gould Fletcher, —what is presented, from the position of a (seemingly) cool, detached, observing poetic voice (or figure: far more ostensibly self-aware here—‘feel the pavement under me’), implicated in (—as present in-to) the scene, is still a focus on a particular time or (rather)—*moment. …

 

*There are, here in ‘Spring Day’, not even the similes and metaphors of Fletcher’s imagistic poems. …

 

Lowell dispenses with grammar and creates an immediate, and still detached poetic voice-person. … —an attempt to create the sense of hitting off the (immediate—im-mediate) impression (so to) with the exact word: ‘Swirl’,—‘Shock’,… —‘Eddies of light’. …

 

There is a focus on movement: as somewhat unnervingly abrupt and staccato, dictated by mechanical (machine-metallic), industrial, and commercial influences … ‘Shock and recoil’, ‘spin and shudder’, and yet also a clean, smooth organic and (almost) geometric rhythm: ‘waves’. …

 

—A proliferation of detail into which the impression of the crowded, active streets breaks down *(—its quanta-constituents).—The sharpness (concision), cleannesss, and definition (exactness) of the capturing and articulation of sense-impressions: … —‘Flare of sunshine’,—‘whirling’, blurring’,—‘metal blue’,… ‘clean and new’,—‘pungent’. …

 

*—But, most of all,… —the transition in-of time that proceeds—indifferently and ineluctably—outwith-beneath(?—around) the plethora of urban activity(/ies), and the way, in particular, in which this is captured and articulated through the effect of the change of the quality of light in-on the urban scene: … *—the change in the quality of the reflected light of the setting sun (moving down the sky, as it pales to a lemon yellow) on the glass of the shop-front windows.

*(—This puts me in mind of Lichtenstein’s ‘Reflections’ series, which I was lucky enough to see in person at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art recently … ).

 

 

*… There is here then—an economy, precision, and pragmatism (a sort of… stoical (—?) fidelity to (only) the model).

 

*—A focus on simple quotidian detail(s). …

 

*… —No transcendental speculative extrapolation from, or treatment of the thing-model as ‘standing in’ for something (—something essentially ungraspable and (thus) unrepresentable. …).

 

—Only the thing experienced-the experience *(however fictitious or hypothetical) and the impression which sparks off a-the corresponding image. …

 

*…—(For want, then)… —A form of (what I’ll dub here, for my current purposes) *psychological realism. …

Presenting-presentation, without exposition, comment, or judgment. …

 

—Thus evoking, then, a (—hypothetical) thought or psychological process,—the perspective or shape of consciousness (so to)—of the figure (equally hypothetical, but… bound at the very least, if not straightforwardly identical to) the poetic voice.

 

 

—an attempt, then, of sorts, to construct a shape of consciousness of the poetic voice (or, perhaps rather, a consciousness-perspective that the poetic voice occupies—somewhere (in-)between the 1st & 3rd persons, in the manner of ‘free-indirect’ discourse in Modernist prose…), and to evoke an (again,—at the very least) analogous shape of consciousness in the reader,…

—working out, by suggestion or allusion, from the interplay of thoughts (—the intellectual and emotional in the instant of time) to the shape of consciousness for whom that interplay, or ‘complex’ is a possibility:

 

*… —the psychological conditions of-for the image. …

 

(—?).

 

 

*I hope to return to this later (down the ol’ line) in comparing the Romantic concept of the fragment, the ‘Epiphany’, and the ‘image’, and the legacy of the Romantic fragment,… but, on this, I think, it’s worth going into some (repetitive) detail in comparing my earlier reading of Joyce’s early ‘Eat out his eyes’ ‘Epiphany’ fragment. …

 

*—To take the liberty of recapitulating here…

*(I know I do do this quite a lot, but the reading itself is important here, I feel, and the nature of this as an ongoing blog project means I’m… fishing around, somewhat (so to) to connect all the thoughts and form a coherent flow of thoughts ideas across posts. …

And, anyway,… hell.—why ever not, ‘ey(hmm)? … —s’my blog… I promised to be intemperate and idiosyncratic (right at the start there…), ‘n’ I’ll self-indulgently quote m’self back to m’self ‘s’much as I want, damn your eyes. … )

 

 

— “

 

 

pull out his eyes

 

*… —There is a mocking-patronising tone in Mr Vance’s performance of admonishment *(—and there is a quality of a certain—forced—condescending theatricality…). …

 

—What is an ostensible, formal, address to the mother here (—Mrs Joyce), is nonetheless, obviously intended as a direct address-admonishment to ‘Joyce’, reduced here to the status of the third person, framed indirectly through the mother. …

 

—Framed as an indirect address (admonishment.—the detail of the stick…), appealing to the mother, so that Mr Vance can administer discipline-punishment without violating the—unwritten-unspoken—social code, prohibiting disciplining someone else’s child (and thereby adopting the parental role and relegating the parent to the status of a by-stander. … *—an assumption of knowing better how to discipline another’s child… and it’s important, in this regard, that the fragment is framed at the outset in-through the domestic, social context of the parlour of the house…),—the mother thus made complicit in an open secret.

 

 

*—What may seem a fairly obvious *(—innocuous? … —forgettable-inconsequential,… —trivial) moment-exchange, then, in-point-of-fact, reveals the nature, and the inner-workings (sic) of what is actually a quite complexly coded, socially fraught performance… *—the awkward and perpetual negotiation—of social roles *(—for complicity… —for validation and compliance in-of ‘authority’)—rendering all the actors here complicit in an unspoken yet (painfully) present open secret. …

 

*The striking element is the child’s burgeoning awareness-consciousness (—the revelation-manifestation) of the nature and stakes of this performance here… —Mr Vance’s appeal to, and reliance upon, the open secret, as well as the mother’s (necessary) voluntary complicity, in establishing (—performing) the authority to admonish and threaten retribution-punishment… *(—coupled to the child’s intimidation, resentment, and yet powerlessness in the face of the admonishment (—that is,—his inability to step outside the bounds of social and filial propriety implied by the performance, whilst painfully aware of the tenuousness and provisionality of its legitimacy)… *—‘under the table’. …).

 

 

*—… —‘Joyce’s’ attempt to appropriate of the language of (performed) authority,—in-through the accidental-incidental rhyme, and through repetition, in the composition of the short poem, forms an attempt—reveals a capacity—to challenge-confront (irresistible) authority, and to control *(to—master) experience (—‘to himself’. …)  *—through the artwork. …

(and hence the dramatic use to which the fragment could then be put in Portrait, where, in fact, I’d argue (at least), very little is actually added (or—needs to be added) by way of exposition to expand the context, and where (in fact) it could be argued that the fragment is reduced, almost, to the status of a thematic precursor… (—?)).

 

 

*… —The ‘epiphany’, then, is a highly complex, self-contained fragment,—(negatively) pointing out to (—outward toward.—evoking) a larger social-political-linguistic context that informs its structure and the nature of the revelation it represents…

 

…—There need be no more exposition than a few, choice, place indications and ‘stage directions’ *(—the fragment plays out as a ‘scene’ … *—the record of an impression. …).—The effectiveness of the ‘epiphany’ (—as fragment), indeed, relies upon the sparseness, brevity, and cleanliness (—clarity) of this—strict—artistic economy…

 

 

*—The Imagists—images—then, share in common with Joyce’s ‘Epiphanies’ the status of the fragment. …

*—presentation, without (ostensible) judgment, of detail(-details) from which a broader situation-context is evoked, and a tight literary-poetic economy. …

 

*—The pathos of the poems (their mood and tone) derives from the detachment, isolation, and observation of the poetic ‘voice’, and (yet also) its implication in the scene-moment-detail(s) observed, and the sharp, clean economy of selection and presentation. …

 

 

The Imagists, then, I’d argue, share (or, rather,—participate in (—?)) the post-Romantic, anti-transcendental tradition *(yes, yes,… —so to. … *—scepticism, pragmatism) in-of Nietzsche, Joyce (particularly in his early fiction and in the terms of his own critical writings), and T.E. Hulme.

 

 

*—I want to move on now to fully detail the philosophical and artistic stakes in-of the ‘image’, and (what I hope I’ll demonstrate to be) the mutually illuminating parallel between the *structure of (artistic) experience (so to) implicit in Pound’s claims about the ‘image’, the ‘complex, the ‘VORTEX’,… —the poem, and that at stake in Stephen’s aesthetic theory in ol’ Joycey-beards early fiction, linking these more explicitly to my reading(s) of Nietzsche and Bergson. …

 

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