Creative non-fiction / April 2018 (Issue 39)

On the State of the Imagists (1918)

by Hirato Renkichi, translated into English by Sho Sugita

To American poets, or rather all Americans, the world is determined by values of the present. In order to capture an impervious image of movement to the point of getting absorbed into reality, nothing other than the present is necessary. Thus, no matter what happened before or what will happen next, what matters most is simply constructing an interesting composition in front of their own eyes with their well-polished camera.

Although there is a risk that that art will only end up in mere sketches, the truth is its very opposite, as their refined sensibility makes everything extraordinary. Their attitude is a kind of nihilism, and they see that scavenging for the exquisitely shining gem above the grave is a fruitless effort, but where did that wealth and refinement come from? What exists behind the modernity that seeks to cultivate our most creative, unique and personal state? And what drives us to new art movements such as Cubism, Futurism, Existentialism or Imagism?

Because we have in our possession a variety of so-called historical masterpieces from France and other countries, many maîtres have clustered together since the recent arrival of Symbolism as special idiosyncrasies and forms have been erected. It is not far-fetched to say that the development of poetry in that field has reached a height of perfection. Furthermore, though appreciating such poetry is good and lively, when we are faced to realise our own art, we have to make a sudden shift to lead a completely different path.

In contrast to our country, the Imagist group exists behind an immense backdrop called America. In contrast to our country, there sits a kitchen stove that fuels their immense passion. They are trembling for their immense life of imminence. There, a song of natural exultation streams out. The rhythm seethes with unrestrained poetic imagination. By all accounts, they are very good at finding an implicit rhythm from the varied undulations inside the gradation of unrhymed verse. Their form is a kind of free verse that immediately constructs a rhythm out of their inner breath, and at the same time that they are able to create something delightful owing to the command of their language, there is also a delight in how they break their necks to discover varied new forms. And whether it is their ideology or form, they never seek the past; there is a distinctive character, not in their concept or small cry of subjectivity, but in their most intuitive ability to objectify the flavour of fresh themes captured inside their subjectivity. (This is similar to the painter Henri Matisse's sketching methods, but surely there are points of difference in their own accords.) However, I could certainly say that they are faithful students of the French, whether it is their delicate cosmopolitan tones, cheerful humour or refined sensibilities. I think characteristics that Madame Lowell is indebted to people like Degrémont or Mr. Fort is to no small extent. They too are walking inside the common womb that encloses the true tradition of post-Symbolist modern poetry of all groups, and this marks the difference from a group of poets in our own country who only consider the French humanists, Whitman and certain German poets as poetic geniuses to publish their sloppy poems, which is also my greatest discontent.

Furthermore, it is my greatest sorrow that we are not blessed with a milieu in our country that tries to reach beyond the celebration of idealism and humanism.

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