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Imagist Movement. A Manifesto. EZRA POUND (1885-1972). The apparition of these faces in the crowd;     Petals on a wet, black bough. . Like haiku, but adapted to modern world. Suggests more than its literal meaning “Don't be descriptive; remember that the painter

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imagist movement

Imagist Movement

A Manifesto


Suggests more than its literal meaning

  • “Don't be descriptive; remember that the painter
  • can describe a landscape much better
  • than you can, and that he has to know
  • a good deal more about it.”

The Chinese Written Character As a Medium

for Poetry

From a manuscript by Ernest Fenollosa,

Translated by Ezra Pound


“An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. . . . “

“The image is not an idea. It is a radiant node or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing.”


The Structure of Detached Chinese Words:

“The earlier forms of these characters were pictorial, and their hold upon the imagination is little shaken, even in later conventional modifications. It is not so well known, perhaps, that a great number of these ideographic roots carry in them a verbal idea of action. It might be thought that a picture is naturally the picture of a thing, and that therefore the root ideas of Chinese are what grammar calls nouns.

But examination shows that a large number of the primitive Chinese characters, even the so-called radicals, are shorthand pictures of actions or processes.


“For example, the ideograph meaning ‘to speak’ is a mouth with two words and a flame coming out of it….In this process of compounding, two things added together do not produce a third thing but suggest some fundamental relation between them.”

说 话 (modern characters)

言 (ancient radical)


“The moment we use the copula, the moment we express subjective inclusions, poetry evaporates. The more concretely and vividly we express the interactions of things the better the poetry. We need in poetry thousands of active words, each doing its utmost to show forth the motive and vital forces. We can not exhibit the wealth of nature by mere summation, by the piling of sentences. Poetic thought works by suggestion, crowding maximum meaning into the single phrase pregnant, charged, and luminous from within.”


Other founding writings that Ezra Pound created about the Imagist movement are “A Retrospect,” and “A Few Don’ts.”

These ideas, published in 1918, influenced much of what was to come in 20th century poetry. You may access them here:



  • Direct treatment of “the thing”
  • Every word contributes to the presentation
  • Compose in musical phrases
other imagist poets

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

  • Amy Lowell
  • William Carlos Williams, who took Imagism a step further by insisting on a common, American, vernacular.
Other Imagist Poets