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This review is taken from Poetry Nation 1 Number 1, 1973.

CRANKING THE ENGINE Edited by Peter Jones IMAGIST POETRY (Penguin Books) 35p

WILLIAM EMPSON once described Imagist poetry as poetry that has lost the use of its legs, and if you read a bookful of Imagist poems straight off there is certainly a very good chance that you will be overcome by a feeling of not really getting anywhere. The feeling is not just one of paralysis, though; it is also rather like finding yourself in a kind of aesthetic echo-chamber, where words and their accompanying silences are set free to resonate more fully and more suggestively than they do in other sorts of poetry (not to mention life itself), but where the sense of privileged detachment that this carries with it - at times, it seems, almost of luxurious fiddling - eventually breeds an obscure guilt and a longing to return to the grittier and less purely aesthetic problems of the ordinary world.

The Imagists sometimes added to this impression by the way in which they chose their subject matter. H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), for example, one of the stars of the 1914 and subsequent Imagist anthologies and one of the few poets to remain a life-long Imagist, displayed in her poetry an allusive familiarity with classical literature - in particular with Greek poetry - which might have seemed gratifyingly civilised in (say) Matthew Arnold's England but which in a twentieth-century American was suggestive of an unreal degree of isolation from worldly matters. And it is a fact that this classical culture is nowhere in her poetry brought ...


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