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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: January 2020

3 - Prefaces and Manifestos


The symbiotic relationship between the Imagist movement and the many little magazines that emerged in modernism is evident in the prose publications written to announce the work of the group. To the key articles, ‘Imagisme’ and ‘A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste’, published in Poetry (Chicago) in March 1913, can be added many of the critical articles from The Egoist, the prefaces from Some Imagist Poets, and other texts by Amy Lowell, T. E. Hulme, and May Sinclair. The multiple prose discussions of Imagism are worth considering for a number of reasons: first, following the tenor of the argument in the previous two chapters, to understand how such texts functioned as part of the advertising and publicity strategies of the Imagist movement; second, to consider how these forms of Imagist theory related to Imagist practice, and whether a failure to follow Imagist ‘rules’ in the poems made any difference whatsoever.

The two texts published in Poetry, ‘Imagisme’ and ‘A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste’, can be considered the nearest document to a manifesto of Imagism. They announced Imagism to a reading public, and Pound was fond of referring to them in later critical writings. Interestingly, ‘A Few Don'ts’ was intended to accompany rejection slips sent out by Poetry, indicating the close link between the discourse of magazine publication and the Imagists. It also suggests that the document was not directly a manifesto, or at least was a text that could be adapted for different purposes. Imagism's ambiguous use of the manifesto format seems to place it as a cultural formation somewhere between the Georgian poets and the Futurist group. The first Georgian anthology contained a prefatory note, written by Edward Marsh, which modestly claimed the volume was issued ‘in the belief that English poetry is now once again putting on a new strength and beauty’. No sense of a collective entity called the Georgians is in evidence, with the name being referred to merely as ‘another “Georgian period” which may take rank in due time with the several great poetic ages of the past’. The Futurists, however, had trumpeted their arrival in a number of manifestos, from 1909 onwards, including manifestos for sculpture, music, and 1913's ‘Futurist Manifesto of Lust’.