HI, COUP! THE ‘HAIKU COUP D’ETAT’ OF MODERNISM’S FANATICAL IMAGISTE CULT


Everyone knows the Poetic Modernism Revolution begain with the Imagists, but few appreciate the role of poet, fiction writer, and critic, Yone Noguchi (1875-1947) –the Japanese Ezra Pound.

Noguchi conquered the West in three steps: San Francisco, 1893-1900; New York City, 1901-1904; and England, 1903 & 1913.   He befriended William Michael Rossetti (one of the seven founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood), Arthur Symons, William Butler Yeats, and Thomas Hardy. Not bad.

Noguchi got raves in Poetry magazine as a pioneering modernist, thanks to his early advocacy of free verse and association with modernist writers Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, and John Gould Fletcher.  (Fletcher, from Arkansas, was part of Pound’s circle, and, later, John Crowe Ransom’s Southern Agrarians.)

So Noguchi pushed all the Modernist buttons: Pre-Raphaelite, Pound’s Euro-circle, Agrarian New Critics, and Chicago’s ‘Poetry.’   Bingo.

Modernism is usually associated with WW I, but the Russo-Japanese War played a key role on more than one level.

Noguchi’s suggestion to write haiku in his “A Proposal To American Poets” had a great impact in the wake of Japan’s stunning victory (aided by Japan’s alliance with Great Britain) in the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, as Japan took the world stage by storm.   Britain gained as a sea power in competition with Russia–soon rocked by revolution after its humiliating defeat by Japan.

Now, what are WC Williams‘ ‘The Red Wheel Barrow’ and Pound’s “In A Station Of the Metro” but haiku (and rather bad ones at that)?

The Modernists would rather not call Pound and Williams writers of haiku.   It makes the whole ‘Imagiste revolution’ seem a little quaint and second-hand.

Also, World War I is a lot sexier than the Russo-Japanese War.

So there’s a good reason why today Yone Naguchi never shows up in the history of Modernist verse.

Oh, and just to complete the Pound analogy; Noguchi gradually became more militaristic and ended fully supporting Japan’s imperial war designs in World War II.

Crush the West!  They never did get Haiku.

4 Comments

  1. poetryandporse said,

    November 5, 2009 at 3:16 am

    All very minor, Tom.

    I don’t know what to say about the names: they escort their own selves to the precipice and low at cloud, calling for their Muse. Most do not excite, because they are boring.

    There is nothing left to do but carry on and sing freely, ignoring the weight of expectation put on our shoulders as the avant-gardist quad of chaps taking it to the bluffers and stuffing ’em every time to such an embarassing degree – we cannot see how others reading do: us who matter in contemporary online Letters. Being the first at anything is enough, and being first among the inferiors is also a badge of honour for they less intellectually viz and vim in vroomy cyberville’s more elegant gaffes where civilzed chat occurs spontaneously, unforced and in effulgence.

    Here there is superior conversation and exchanging at levels the one-liner jocks are, unfortunately, unable to perform in because of a lesser developed linguistic ability.

  2. wfkammann said,

    November 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Yoni Noguchi
    Lovely young man flirting West
    chew on creosote;

    spit it out.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    November 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    The little poetry form that could.

    Ford Madox Ford, early Imagiste, and British War Propaganda officer.

    What’s the link between war and dumbing down art into mindless fetish?

  4. thomasbrady said,

    November 15, 2009 at 1:15 am

    http://www.modernhaiku.org/essays/AmHaikuMovement1.html

    Kent Johnson & others on Harriet are claiming ‘the American haiku movement’ began with the Beats and Jack Spicer in the 1950s…
    No mention on Harriet of Noguchi– or Japan’s 19th century relations with America and Europe… LOL Typical myopic view of history by so-called poetry scholars…