Wednesday, October 31, 2012

ModPo essay #2: Does WCW add a new dimension to the imagist manifesto?

It is clear that version 2 follows the imagist manifesto more closely than version 1. In this short essay, we will look at each aspect of the manifesto and point out how the second version approximates the standard better than the first. A close read, however, reveals an additional difference that perhaps should be added to the original manifesto. In the conclusion we will take a brief look at that additional idea.
1. Language of common speech. Version 1 begins, “while she sits,” while version 2 begins, “she sits.” Immediately the reader observes the economy of language of version 2, versus the superfluous use of language in version 1. Common speech implies a smaller vocabulary and an economy in the use of language, words. Version 2 refers later to “the child,” while version 1 refers to “this little child who,” another example of common language use in the 2nd version.
2. Free verse/cadence. Version 2 follows a constant cadence throughout. It is almost predictable in its consistency. There is no change in idea, thus no need to change the cadence, the rhythm of the poem. Version 1 changes cadence at the 4th stanza, “this little child, who robs her,” though there is no need to introduce a new idea, and in fact, it is clear in version 2 that maintaining the cadence and the idea makes for a more efficient delivery of the message.
3. Absolute freedom in the choice of a subject. Not much to say about that. Both versions freely choose a woman and a child as subjects.
4. Render particulars exactly, avoid vagueness. There is a staticness, an exactness in version 2 that is not captured in version 1. For example, in version 2 “she sits,” with “the child in her lap,” as opposed to, again, “while she sits there (of course it is "there," where else would it be but "there?"),” and what pray tell, is all the business about the child robbing her? The child just “is.”
5. Hard and clear, never blurred or indefinite. See #1 and #4 above.
6. Concentration. Version two is much more concentrated in its structure, more compacted, even shorter in overall length (10 vs 12 lines). Version 2 has seven lines with two words or less. Version 1 only has five lines with two words or less. The structure of version two is much more concentrated on and around the central theme of the poem.
Finally, a difference WCW introduces between the two versions that may be implied, but is not fully explicated in the manifesto, is the use in version 1 of a dynamic, progressive present tense (“while” she sits, child who “robs” her (a continuous action), “knows nothing of his theft,” “rubs his nose”) while version 2 uses a very simple present (she sits) and a very simple past participle (nose pressed) to counterbalance the excess motion going on in version 1. Could this verb thing be WCW’s addition to the imagist manifesto? I think so.

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