It is difficult for a student to judge what is imagist poetry precisely because the definition of an imagist, though unchanging over time, caters to an era-specific audience and sometimes contradicts itself in its very congregation of principles. “The language of common speech” (guideline no. 1) is one that changes with every cohort group that develops its own common language, not to mention the changing technology.
To create a “new” rhythm (no. 2) there must be an old one, and when I first read H.D.’s poetry, I saw no “newness” in her rhythm at all; that is because free verse is something we are all very used to, if not comfortable with, in the sphere of contemporary poetry.
Absolute freedom of choice and subject, the third guideline, is a relief to see as one of the imagists’ principles, because it is free throughout time. Whew!
The fourth guideline, about presenting an image, is one that doesn’t entirely impress upon me any meaning. A clear image? Out of facts? If we wanted to see clear images of things whilst dwelling on facts, our conversations would be much less euphemistic and our culture very blunt. Then that would mean our “language of common speech” would be “out of order” so one defeats the other. Besides, if what is real is always seen, then why hope?
Oh, shut up, you say, boo her offstage. No. This is my essay and I’m staying.
The fifth guideline is about creating “poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred or indefinite.” And I think all poetry should be this way, except the Oulipo school, and except those who mean to be vague, and also the ones that want to be ambiguous for the sake of conscious multiple interpretations of a single work. And excepting the ones who want to be ironic. Or maybe the imagists are ironic, in a tragic sort of way.
Sixth: “concentration is the very essence of poetry.” Yes, well. It is supposed to be. Concentration . . . ? Concentration of meaning? Is that what they mean? Then ars gratia artis is out of luck, and the poetess has to have a purpose behind her panderings.
Yes, there was sexual innuendo there. Have you ever read her biography? For crying out loud!