Stationary vs. Stationery
• Stationary means "fixed in place, unable to move;"
stationery is letterhead or other special writing paper.
(Hint: Stationery with an e comes with an envelope.)
Examples: Evan worked out on his stationary bike. The
duke's initials and crest appeared atop his personal
• The Chair Poet
• Imagist Poetry
• “The Red Wheelbarrow”
• “To Elsie”
• Author Introduction:
• Wallace Stevens
Chair Poet of the Day?
On the website, you will find a link to short American poems. You can get a
poem from there, but any American poem is fine. Simply commit the poem to
memory; each day from now until the end of the quarter I will ask if we have a
chair poet. All you have to do is raise your hand. I will take one a day. (If there
are multiple volunteers, we will schedule them for the next sessions.
A chair poet earns five extra participation points
for each member of his or her group.
• The first time I taught this class, a
student spontaneously recited “The
Red Wheelbarrow” while standing on
a chair. From that came the idea of a
chair poet a day.
Crooked, crawling tide with long wet fingers
Clutching at the gritty beach in the roar and spurt of spray,
Tide of gales, drunken tide, lava-burst of breakers,
Black ships plunge upon you from sea to sea away.
From “Tide of Storms” by John Gould Fletcher
Imagism flourished in Britain and in the United States for a brief
period between 1909 and 1917. In an effort to move away from
the sentimentality and moralizing tone of nineteenth-century
Victorian poetry, imagist poets looked to many sources stimulate
• They studied the French symbolists, who were
experimenting with free verse, a form of poetry that
shunned the accustomed rhythm of metrical feet, or lines.
Rules of rhyming were also considered nonessential.
• The ancient form of Japanese haiku poetry influenced the
imagists to focus on one simple image.
• Greek and Roman classical poetry inspired some of the
imagists to strive for a high quality of writing that would
T. E. Hulme (an English Poet who lived from 1883–1917) was
instrumental in formulating and cultivating the ideas and
concepts that characterized imagism. Hulme proposed a
poetry based on absolutely accurate presentation of its
subject with no excess verbiage.
Imagist poetry aimed to replace muddy abstractions with
exactness of observed detail, apt metaphors, and economy
The first tenet of the Imagist manifesto was "To use the
language of common speech, but to employ always the
exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely
decorative word." While Hulme wrote only a modest
amount of poetry, his ideas inspired Ezra Pound.
Pound's definition of the image was "that which presents an
intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time."
Pound defined the tenets of Imagist poetry as follows:
I. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to
I. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the
musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
Amy Lowell on Imagism
When Ezra Pound left the imagists, Amy Lowell led the movement. In
her book Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (New York: Macmillan
Company, 1917), she outlines what she sees as the major points of
imagism. She set them down “in order.”
1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the
exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.
2. To create new rhythms -as the expression of new moods -- and not
to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods. We do not insist
upon "free-verse" as the only method of writing poetry. We fight for it
as for a principle of liberty. We believe that the individuality of a poet
may often be better expressed in free-verse than in conventional forms.
In poetry a new cadence means a new idea.
3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. It is not good art to
write badly of aeroplanes and automobiles, nor is it necessarily bad art to
write well about the past. We believe passionately in the artistic value of
modem life, but we wish to point out that there is nothing so uninspiring nor
so old-fashioned as an aeroplane of the year 19 11.
4. To present an image (hence the name: "Imagist"). We are not a school of
painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not
deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this
reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to us to shirk the real
difficulties of his art.
5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.
6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of
John Gould Fletcher
William Carlos Williams
F. S. Flint
D. H. Lawrence
It is almost impossible to discuss
the imagist movement in terms of
only Americans. Pound, who
spearheaded much of it, had
connections in both America and
Britain, and the ideas influenced all
of those poets in the same decade.
Though the Imagism movement
was over by 1917, the doctrine
profoundly influenced the free
verse style of the twentieth
William Carlos Williams
“No ideas but in things”
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
QHQ “The Red Wheelbarrow”
1. Q: What is the image that William Carlos Willams is trying to
present in “The Red Wheelbarrow”?
2. Q: For what is the red wheelbarrow a metaphor?
3. Q: Is the red wheelbarrow a metaphor for our dependency
of technology in our society?
4. Q: How does William Carlos Williams use his love of imagism
in “The Red Wheelbarrow” to convey the meaning of the
5. Q: Why doesn’t “The Red Wheelbarrow” contain any capital
letters or punctuation?
1. Q: How did his background as a well-known writer and
physician affect the way he writes this poem?
2. Q: What was the connection between “The Red
Wheelbarrow” and Spring and All, the collection it first
3. Q: How does “The Red Wheelbarrow” influence our
understanding of an imagist text? How does this round-
out, or help us understand the complicated subject that is
4. Q: If “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “In a Station of the
Metro” are poems, what constitutes a poem, and where
do we draw the line and no longer consider something a
QHQ: “To Elsie”
1. Q: But why Elise? What made her so interesting
that he had to write about her?
2. Q: How is William Carlos Williams’ “To Elsie”
representative of the American Dream?
• Q: How is Elsie—the Williams’ nursemaid—a product
of the American Dream?
3. Q: Is the narrator content with the new
modern life coming at its place?
• Wallace Stevens was born on October 2, 1879
• He lived a relatively privileged life
• He went to Harvard, trying to satisfy his father’s wish for him to
become a lawyer while at the same time satisfying his own need
• In 1900, he defied his parents and moved to NY to become a
Journalist for The New York Tribune, though eventually he did
return to law school and become a lawyer.
• He worked to make himself financially stable, but still he wrote.
• In 1923, he published his first collection of poetry.
Although Steven’s work is powerful in its use of images, he is not
classified as an imagist. Instead he writes in a number of styles—
often three line stanzas. His early poems sometimes rhymed, some
are in blank verse, and some a melodic free verse. The poems we
are reading are lyric poems
• Read: Wallace Stevens
• “The Snow Man” 283 (1923)
• “The Emperor of Ice Cream” 284 (1923)
• Post #19:
• Paraphrase either poem. Be original!
• Or discuss the modernist aspects of one or both of
• Or do a brief “new critical” reading of one poem.
• Post #20:
• QHQ either “The Snow Man” or
“The Emperor of Ice Cream”