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Response Journals on Modernism and Imagism: Song of Myself, Cause, The Pool, This is Just to Say, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Gray Room

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Response Journals on Modernism and Imagism: 7 Different Modern Poems

1. Walt Whitman- Song of Myself

Walt Whitman is one of the most popular American poets. He wrote a poem called ‘Song of Myself’ and it is the longest poem in his ‘Leaves of Grass’. As all other modernist poets, in his poem, he broke out the traditional style or shape of the poem, which makes it modern poetry and different from all other old poems that followed a certain rhyme and rhythm. Therefore, when analyzing ‘Song of Myself’, many people said that it might be the most egotistical poem has ever written because it is all about ‘me, myself and I’. He started the poem with the following line ‘I Celebrate myself, and sing myself’. Of course, when writing this poem Whitman was gutsy and took the courage to write a long epic poem about himself. Although the poem identifies ‘myself’ and ‘I’ simply as Whitman, the identity of the first-person speaker is also mythic. The first-person ‘I’ in the poem speaks to all mankind not just to himself, praising the wonder and joy of experiencing nature. It represents a huge break from the formal traditions of the past where the speaker is spreading a message to himself, to the American nation and to the entire universe. He is enjoying the union of both his spiritual and physical selves. Besides, he is celebrating the human body and its ability to become one with self and with nature. He is explaining the long journey one had in this life and he emphasizes that there is no part of the universe is separate from himself. Moreover, in the sixth and seventh line as follows, “My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air, Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same” he is saying that every part of himself is connected with the universe. On the other hand, the poem is considered as a ‘democratic’ poem because it helped to shape the idea of what it means to be an American person. It has influenced almost every major American poet of the twentieth century including some of the poets we took in our course ‘Modern Poetry’ such as T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens. To conclude, the poem in many ways represents the best that American poetry has to offer. However, I did not enjoy this poem that much, but I found it interesting to understand the meaning behind this long poem, also, because it considered as a ‘democratic poem’ I disliked that it is all about American notion only.

2. Ezra Pound- Causa

Ezra Pound is one of the most popular American poets. He was a major figure in the early modernist poetry movement. He wrote a short poem called “Causa” which consists of four lines only. It was published under a book called “Lustra by Ezra Pound” which is a collection of early poems by him. In fact, ‘Causa’ is a Latin word and it stands for the translation ‘of account of’. The language of the poem is very simple, and everyone can understand it. Pound is influenced by the ‘Japanese Haiku’ where we can see the sense of modernism and imagism in his poems. In the first two lines, “I join these words for four people, Some others may overhear them” the poet is speaking out the four people which signifies many voices in one’s head. While in the last two lines, “O world, I am sorry for you, You do not know these four people” he thinks that the world does not understand him, because he has four people inside his mind. Similarly, he feels sorry for the world because the world and the people cannot understand him, and they think that he is crazy but actually he is normal. I personally do like Pound’s poems because every literary work of him and his language are brilliant. Although the poem is very short, it expresses a lot.

3- Hilda Doolittle- The Pool

Hilda Doolittle was an American female poet and a novelist. She is associated with the early twentieth-century imagist group of poets. She published her literary works under the pen name ‘H.D.’. She wrote a short poem that consists of five lines called ‘The Pool’. Since she is a modernist and imagist poet, this poem talks about only one image which is ‘the pool’ itself. The poet is trying to describe something happened in that pool where she spots that thing and she is wondering if that thing alive or not just like a fish. The poem has a free verse, unrhymed and has no regular meter and these are some characteristics of the modernist movement. The first question came to my mind when I first read the poem was is the narrator a person who finds someone in a pool and almost drowned and he or she is saving her life but actually for an imagery poet there has to be a deeper meaning behind this poem. In addition to that, the first line starts with ‘Are you alive?’ and from the title of the poem, we know that the context is in a pool and someone is drowning. The second and third lines are “I touch you. You quiver like a sea-fish” where someone is shaking because of drowning. Moreover, the fourth line is ‘I cover you with my net’ it means that the narrator is trying to save the drowning person and he or she succeeded in protecting him or her and saving his or her life. Finally, she ends the poem with the following quote “What are you-banded one?” which means that the person is covered by a net which implies the lack of freedom. I can truly say that the poet is talking about herself in this poem. Therefore, the mention of the sea and the net together recall the feeling of being trapped under the conflicted thoughts that come with traditional roles a woman play in a society such as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a human being and many more. However, if we remove the title of the poem, the lines could refer to many different things and its meaning can differently change. I am very impressed by the way the poet chose this brilliant and smart title which reflects her touching the water and breaking out all these traditional rules. Similarly, I also liked how she used short lines and questions which prove the narrator’s interest and curiosity. As a mentioned before the poem has only one image which is ‘the pool’ and often an image appeals to the five sense of the audience or the readers and here the poem appeals to touching, seeing and hearing. I personally like this poem because it focuses on one image and it gives it equal importance which is interesting!

4- William Carlos Williams- This is Just to Say

William Carlos Williams is an American poet that is tightly connected with modernism and imagism. He wrote a poem called “This is Just to Say” which was published in 1934. The poem is considered as an imagist poem. It is written as if it is a note left of a kitchen table or a fridge’s door. He tells the reader to forgive him because he ate the plums that were in the icebox. He asks for forgiveness because the plums are supposed to be a breakfast to the one, he left the note for, and he is saving it for the breakfast, but the speaker said, “Forgive me, they were delicious, so sweet, and so cold”. I think this poem is very interesting because the theme or the topic he was talking about is very interesting too. When I was searching for his short poems to write this journal, I found this strange poem because I was surprised that they were a poem about this theme “forgiveness for food”. It has a sense of mystery because the audience does not know whom he is talking to and why he did that. Moreover, it is classified under modernism because it has a free verse and there is no rhythm or rhyme. However, we can tell that this style of modernist poems can give rise to a natural rhythm when the poem is read aloud. Also, from the shape of the poem, one can tell that it is a modernist poem.

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5- Robert Frost- Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost is an American poet who published a poem called “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in 1932. He spent his first forty years mostly unknown and he wrote this poem when he was 48 years old, so he was an experienced poet. In the poem, the speaker is saying that time passes so fast as if one blink an eye and time has gone. I liked how Frost used many language techniques, the parallels were perfect and clear. It has a metaphor in the first line “Nature’s first green is gold” where green becomes gold, as does line three “Her early leaf’s a flower” where a leaf is a flower.

Also, there is a little hyperbole “But only so an hour” where the poet is saying that the season is reduced to about one hour which shows some short life extension. It is about the cycle of life and that nothing lasts forever as the last line ‘Nothing gold can stay’ which refers to the title of the poem itself. The poet mentioned the Garden of Eden where was Adam and Eve’s old testament. Their lives fell into shame because of their disobedience. To conclude, ideal situations do not last forever and the message that the poet is trying to deliver is that one should take full advantage of what is valuable and precious. I liked how he delivered a big and important message in a short poem that consists of eight lines only.

6- Wallace Stevens- Gray Room

Wallace Stevens is an American modernist poet. He is an educated man who studied at Harvard University. He wrote a poem called ‘Gray Room’ which was published in 1917. He is well known for his fictional and mysterious style when writing literary works. In this poem, he is addressing the readers to something which we actually do not know. It has some sort of mystery where to talk to someone or something. He might be talking to a picture or a work of art that is portrayed. However, he might be also talking to a person or womankind. I like the sense of mystery in his poems where I can spend a whole day thinking whom he is talking to and who is he have in mind. The first line started with a mysterious opening as the following line “Although you sit in a room that is gray” and he ends the poem with a mysterious ending too which is “I know how furiously your heart is beating”. I really what to know how ‘you’ is and who is heart is it ‘your heart’. However, must of the analysis of this poem said to be about a girl who is bored and sitting in a “Gray Room” as represented in the title, where gray represents boredom. Also, the girl is neither black nor white nevertheless she is depressed with her life. As I read about the meaning of the poem, I found that it has a deep and really beautiful meaning. Therefore, the poet wants the audience to sympathize with a girl who has everything she wants in her life but still she is not happy and satisfied. He points out the fact that happiness is not found in larger things in life. Besides, happiness is near us and our role should be trying to search it out. It is as a matter of fact found in smaller things.

7- If you like my poems let them- E. E. Cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings is one of the most popular American poets of the twentieth century. He preferred his name to be abbreviated in all smaller or lowercase letters as ‘e. e. cummings’ rather than the natural way of writing names with capital or uppercase letter. Furthermore, not only his name but also most of the letters in his poems are small letters. He has a unique style in his poems which is free verse, and this inspired countless readers all around the world which reflects modernism. Again, the poem has some sort of mystery you cannot truly tell who ‘you’ in the first stanza is. The ‘you’ may be the reader or someone else such as his lover. In the first two lines he said ‘if you like my poems let them, walk in the evening, a little behind you’ here he is addressing the readers that if they put his poems in their minds they will see the world from another perspective which is “e. e. cummings’ point of view”. However, we can tell that ‘you’ refers to a woman and if she likes his poems she should let them walk a little behind her to people will say that they saw a princess pass as the third and fourth line, “then people will say, Along this road I saw a princess pass” so here he boasts of himself. In the last line, he mentioned ‘tall and ignorant servants’ it is probably mean that people who do not like his poems are ignorant servant nonetheless, people who like his poems are going to be princesses. When I first read the poem, I noticed that there is one letter of a word that is written in an uppercase “Along”, this may mean that the stanzas are connected to each other. Personally, I think that the one capital letter gave a deeper meaning to the poem because why know how Cummings is. It is so interesting to know the poet’s own style and his approaches which makes it easier for you to understand the meaning or the message of the poem.

Works Cited

  1. Steven, Kellman. “Song of Myself Summary.” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, 2006, www.enotes.com/topics/song-myself.
  2. Shmoop Editorial Team. “Song of Myself.” Shmoop. Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008. www.shmoop.com/song-of-myself/.
  3. Timothy, Hender. “Causa by Ezra Pound.” Famous Poems, Famous Poets. – All Poetry, 2013, allpoetry.com/poem/8501739-Causa-by-Ezra-Pound.
  4. Stock, Noel. “Ezra Pound.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 15 Feb. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Ezra-Pound#ref100742.
  5. Carol, Davis. “Write a Brief Analysis of Hilda Doolittle’s Poem ‘The Pool’.” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, 19 June 2012, www.enotes.com/homework-help/write-brief-analysis-h-d-s-poem-pool-345060.
  6. Interesting Literature Team “A Short Analysis of Hilda Doolittle’s ‘The Pool’.” Interesting Literature, A Library of Literary Interestingness, 15 June 2017, interestingliterature.com/2017/06/15/a-short-analysis-of-hilda-doolittles-the-pool/.
  7. Spacey, Andrew. “Analysis of the Poem ‘This is Just to Say’ by William Carlos Williams.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 26 Jan. 2019, owlcation.com/humanities/Analysis-of-Poem-This-Is-Just-To-Say-by-William-Carlos-Williams.
  8. Shrestha, Roma. ‘This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams: Summary and Critical Analysis.’ Bachelorandmaster, Bachelor and Master, 19 Nov. 2013, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/this-is-just-to-say.html.
  9. Spacey, Andrew. “Analysis of Poem ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ by Robert Frost.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 25 Jan. 2019, owlcation.com/humanities/Analysis-of-Poem-Nothing-Gold-Can-Stay-by-Robert-Frost.
  10. Garner, Katherine. “Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay: Poem Meaning & Analysis.” Study.com, Study.com, 2 Apr. 2018, study.com/academy/lesson/robert-frosts-nothing-gold-can-stay-poem-meaning-analysis.html.
  11. Said, Rashmi. “Short Summary of ‘Gray Room’ by Wallace Stevens.” World’s Largest Collection of Essays! Published by Experts, 30 Oct. 2015, www.shareyouressays.com/essays/short-summary-of-gray-room-by-wallace-stevens/101102.
  12. Middleton, Barry, et al. “Gray Room.” PoemHunter.com, 3 Jan. 2003, www.poemhunter.com/poem/gray-room/
  13. Jill. “If You like My Poems Let Them by E. E. Cummings.” If You like My Poems Let Them by E. E. Cummings, 10 Apr. 2014, thebreakfastclub-basketcase.blogspot.com/2014/04/if-you-like-my-poems-let-them-by-e-e.html.
  14. Eve. “If You like My Poems Let Them.” If You like My Poems Let Them, 22 June 2011, poetrypill.blogspot.com/2011/06/untitled.html.

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Response Journals on Modernism and Imagism: Song of Myself, Cause, The Pool, This is Just to Say, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Gray Room. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/response-journals-on-modernism-and-imagism-song-of-myself-cause-the-pool-this-is-just-to-say-nothing-gold-can-stay-gray-room/
“Response Journals on Modernism and Imagism: Song of Myself, Cause, The Pool, This is Just to Say, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Gray Room.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/response-journals-on-modernism-and-imagism-song-of-myself-cause-the-pool-this-is-just-to-say-nothing-gold-can-stay-gray-room/
Response Journals on Modernism and Imagism: Song of Myself, Cause, The Pool, This is Just to Say, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Gray Room. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/response-journals-on-modernism-and-imagism-song-of-myself-cause-the-pool-this-is-just-to-say-nothing-gold-can-stay-gray-room/> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2023].
Response Journals on Modernism and Imagism: Song of Myself, Cause, The Pool, This is Just to Say, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Gray Room [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Jan 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/response-journals-on-modernism-and-imagism-song-of-myself-cause-the-pool-this-is-just-to-say-nothing-gold-can-stay-gray-room/
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