In September 1908 the young American poet, John Gould Fletcher (1886-1950), left Harvard University for Europe. In his autobiography, Life Is My Song (1937), Fletcher explains the reasons for his pilgrimage:
I had come abroad to try to acquire an education, to learn something concerning the aesthetic, moral, and spiritual values by which man was made worthy of the world he lived in, and which had created man's highest civilizations. . . . Were there values in Europe, were there values anywhere in the world, which were living and functioning vitally in sufficient strength, to enable me to build up anything from my own American background, to make anything more of myself than a complete failure of adjustment to the standards of my country and my people? I had come to Europe, at all events, to find out. And I knew from the outset that my exile would be neither a short nor an easy one. (Fletcher, 1937, p. 34)
Fletcher here articulates some of the motives that impelled idealistic poets of his generation into self-exile: a profound alienation from contemporary America, an uncertain sense of identity, a yearning for permanent aesthetic and spiritual values, and a readiness to search for such values in the great centres of European civilization. In London Fletcher found, if not the grail of his quest, at least a congenial company of like-minded seekers. By 1910 he had joined the Guild Socialist movement, and by 1914 he was engaged in the poetic revolution known as Imagism.
Fletcher's progress exemplifies the interaction of European and American energies that gave rise to modernist poetry in English during the early decades of the twentieth century. The innovative, experimental verse that helped to shape the sensibility of several succeeding generations grew out of a restless, dynamic nexus of international contacts. With these transatlantic connections in mind, scholars sometimes characterize the revolution in the arts of the period as 'International Modernism' (Kenner, 1988, pp. 3-4).
International modernism arose in a world of improved communications, commerce and travel. Transoceanic telegraphy, wireless radio and superior shipping dramatically accelerated the transmission of words, documents and people. Travel between Europe and North America came within the reach of groups who could not previously afford it. Appropriately enough, two influential patrons of modernist writing — Winifred Ellerman and Nancy Cunard — were heiresses of wealthy shipping magnates. The 'global village' of Marshall McLuhan was not yet in sight, but a transatlantic community had swum into ken.
This link between culture and technology involved a historical irony, for the proponents of a cosmopolitan cultural vision tended to be critics of industrialism and rampant capitalism. When Matthew Arnold advocated an international standard of culture in his influential treatise Culture and Anarchy (1867—8), he wrote in opposition to a provincial philistinism that he associated with bourgeois profitseeking. In turn-of-the-century America, young writers to whom Arnold's analysis appealed deplored the triumph of this materialism even as they benefited from the prosperity, leisure and mobility that it provided. They were the first generation of Americans who could afford to take Arnold's prescriptions to heart as educational imperatives.
To observers on both sides of the Atlantic, the pursuit of material wealth seemed to dominate the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The novelist and short-story writer, Sherwood Anderson (1876—1941), described the years in which he grew up as the most materialistic age in the history of the world, when wars would be fought without patriotism, when men would forget God and only pay attention to moral standards, when the will to power would replace the will to serve and beauty would be well-nigh forgotten in the terrible headlong rush of mankind toward the acquisition of possessions. (Anderson, 1997, p. 57)
These developments had only begun to affect the rural community of which Anderson wrote in Winesburg, Ohio (1919), but their effects are full-blown in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925). Here the ethos of the so-called Gilded Age is personified by the degenerate mining millionaire, Dan Cody, from whom Jay Gatsby absorbs his meretricious version of the American Dream.
The coarsening of the moral and aesthetic fibre of America in the late nineteenth century impelled some artists and writers to pull up stakes, and others to dig in. One group expatriated themselves, choosing self-exile in a European society whose upper-middle class, at least until 1914, was more securely established and more receptive to the arts than was its American equivalent. The other group of artists and writers stayed at home, choosing to combat Babbittry on its native ground. (The protagonist of Sinclair Lewis's satirical novel, Babbitt, published in 1922, became a byword for the self-righteous and hypocritical boosterism that flourished in many American small towns.)
Although the indigenists sometimes criticized the expatriates as turncoats and cowards, the division between them was more apparent than real. Both groups were fighting the same cultural battle, and both were fundamentally internationalist. They travelled and published on both sides of the Atlantic, and they collaborated closely with European artists who were combating similar trends in their countries. Only an international alliance of artists could mount an effective resistance against the transnational forces that seemed to threaten the life of the spirit.
In what follows, we will chart some of the transatlantic connections among modernist poets by focusing upon major centres of creative activity. We will look first at the European centres, especially London and Paris, where American expatriates such as John Gould Fletcher congregated with kindred spirits in an endeavour to renew Old World ideals. Then we will examine the American centres, especially New York and Chicago, where the indigenists collaborated with European expatriates who shared their vision of New World possibilities.
Like John Gould Fletcher, many American expatriates who came abroad before the Great War of 1914—18 found a congenial home in London. No other literary community in the English-speaking world offered such advantages to ambitious young writers: a wealth of literary publishers and periodicals, a receptive and liberal audience devoted to spiritual pursuits, a venerable and prestigious literary tradition, and an established poetic discourse acknowledged by writers, publishers and readers alike. Moreover, these advantages were no less available to aspirants from the British colonies and former colonies than to home-country hopefuls. Among the important modern poets who began their careers in Edwardian and Georgian London are Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, 'H. D.' (Hilda Doolittle) and Robert Frost.
The career of Ezra Pound (1885-1972) illustrates the opportunities that London offered to new arrivals. Pound reached the capital in December 1908 and stepped almost immediately into an extensive literary network. He soon met William Butler Yeats, whom he considered the greatest living poet, and Ford Madox Ford, who published Pound in the English Review and tutored him in the aesthetics of modern French fiction. Pound also attended meetings of an informal poets' club convened by T. E. Hulme and F. S. Flint, whose discussions often centred upon the role of images in poetic communication.
Into these cosmopolitan circles, Pound was generously accepted. He soon had a regular publisher, Elkin Mathews, who brought out five volumes of the young American's work between December 1908 and May 1913. Pound regularly contributed poetry and prose to the New Age, a Guild Socialist weekly edited by A. R. Orage. He lectured on early medieval European literature at the Regent Street Polytechnic, and J. M. Dent published the lectures as The Spirit of Romance (1910). He was introduced to Olivia Shakespear, a novelist and an intimate friend of Yeats; and five years later, in 1914, he married Mrs Shakespear's daughter, Dorothy. 'Am by way of falling into the croud [sic] that does things here', Pound told William Carlos Williams. 'London, deah old lundon is the place for poesy' (Pound and Williams,
1996, p. 13). In 1913, Pound even arranged for Williams's second book of poems, The Tempers, to be published by Elkin Mathews in London.
Like Pound, Robert Frost (1874-1963) found London to be the place for poesy. Unable to obtain a publisher for his work in the United States, Frost brought his family to England in 1912. There, he befriended Edward Thomas, Lascelles Aber-crombie, and others among the Georgian school of poets. David Nutt and Co. agreed to publish Frost's first two books of poetry, A Boy's Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914). The favourable reviews of his work on both sides of the Atlantic whetted the interest of American publishers. When he returned to the United States in 1915, Frost was taken up by Henry Holt and Company of New York, who remained his principal publisher for the rest of his long and successful career. Although Frost never intended his transatlantic exile to be permanent, his trip across the ocean was indispensable to his launching as a poet.
Meanwhile, Pound was forming a cosmopolitan alliance with other young poets who lived in London. The Imagists, as they called themselves, included Pound's old Philadelphia friend, Hilda Doolittle (1888-1961), who was just beginning her European expatriation under the pen-name of 'H. D.' The English poets and translators, F. S. Flint and Richard Aldington, threw in with the Americans, and Aldington consolidated the bonds even further by marrying H. D.
The principal outlets for the writing that emerged from the movement were no less transatlantic than its personnel. Poems and manifestos appeared in London (in the Egoist and the New Age), New York (in Others) and Chicago (in Poetry, of which Pound became Foreign Editor). The heroic age of the international little magazine was getting under way, and a heady mixture of work by British, Irish and American authors might be found in almost any issue of the liveliest periodicals.
The new movement also had a Continental flavour. Imagisme, as it was sometimes styled, aped the cultural politics of the French and Italian avant-garde schools such as Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Futurism. Outrageous proclamations, interviews and readings attracted media attention and shocked bourgeois sensibilities. Furthermore, the Imagist advocacy of free verse had a French dimension because turn-of-the-century French poets had taken up and developed the legacy of Walt Whitman as an alternative to the hegemony of fixed forms in their tradition. When Pound and Flint promoted a poetry of 'the musical phrase', they were thinking less of Whitman than of the vers libre and other metrical experiments of Parisian poets such as Remy de Gourmont, Jules Romains, Charles Vildrac, Emile Verhaeren and others (see Pound, 1954, p. 3, and Pound, 1913). The free-verse tradition in modern English-language poetry originated in America with Whitman, but one branch of it returned to its home only after a detour through Paris and London. Such a journey is thoroughly characteristic of modernism's transatlantic circulations.
Imagism is probably the most important single movement in English-language poetry of the twentieth century. Hardly any prominent poet of Pound's generation and the next two after it went untouched by Imagist theory and practice. The aesthetic of Imagism might nowadays be called minimalist. It emphasized a romantic return to origins, a simplification of needless complexities, a zealous, Puritanical stripping-away of the excrescences that had attached themselves to the art of poetry like barnacles to a clean hull. Among the luxuries to be relinquished were traditional metre and rhyme, artificial poetic diction, superfluous verbiage, explicit philosophizing and editorializing, rhetoric, and transitional filler. The poem was to be made as economical and functional as possible, and its chief raison d'etre was to present images unmediated by authorial commentary (see Coffman, 1951; Schneidau, 1969; Gage, 1983).
Classic examples of Imagism in action include Pound's 'In a Station of the Metro', H. D.'s 'Oread' and William Carlos Williams's 'The Red Wheelbarrow'. More compact even than these exercises in condensation is a poem by Pound entitled 'Papyrus'. Here Pound purports to translate a Greek lyric accidentally and only partially preserved on a recycled manuscript. In how few words can the essence of a Sappho love-poem be conveyed?
In theme and form, the poem enacts a drama of presence and absence. The presence of spring whets Sappho's appetite for the absent Gongula. The presence of three line-beginnings whets our appetite for an absent text. By honing language's presence to an absolute minimum, the Imagist poem sharpens our intuition of its expressive gaps and omissions (see Kenner, 1971, pp. 54—64). An Image, Pound explained, 'presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time' (Pound, 1954, p. 4).
The London Imagists soon attracted imitators. Of these the most important was Amy Lowell of Boston, whose entrepreneurial energies, if not her poetic talent, rivalled those of Pound. Lowell visited London and won several of Pound's colleagues to her banner, including Aldington and Fletcher. Lowell edited three anthologies entitled Some Imagist Poets, which appeared in 1915, 1916 and 1917.
Muttering darkly against 'Amygism', Pound immediately co-founded a new school known as 'Vorticism'. This movement differed from Imagism by incorporating the sister arts. Thus, the Vorticists included experimental painters (Wyndham Lewis, William Roberts, David Bomberg, Edward Wadsworth) and sculptors (Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska) as well as writers (Pound, Lewis, T. S. Eliot). As with Imagism, the personnel of the movement was distinctly international. Bomberg, Roberts and Wadsworth were British; Epstein, Pound and Eliot, American; and Gaudier-Brzeska, French. Characteristically, Lewis carried the idea to an extreme, by being born on a yacht off the coast of Nova Scotia to a British mother and an American father of French-Canadian ancestry.
Vorticist polemics championed the principles of abstract formalism and celebrated the dynamic nature of creative processes and products (a 'vortex' is a swirl of creative energy within an artist's psyche, within his work, or within his milieu). The style of Vorticist visual art and experimental writing ranged from stylized representation to outright non-representation or abstraction. In their typographically audacious journal, BLAST, the Vorticists pushed avant-garde cheekiness to levels previously unknown in English publications (see Wees, 1972).
Although T. S. Eliot (1888—1965) is no longer remembered primarily as a Vorticist, he made his literary debut as a member of the London avant-garde. 'Preludes' and 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night' were published in the second number of BLAST (1915), and Prufrock and Other Observations (1917) appeared under the imprint of The Egoist, Ltd. Eliot came to England in the early autumn of 1914. He was soon introduced to Pound, who immediately conscripted him into the modernist movement. Eliot 'is the only American I know of who has made what I can call adequate preparation for writing', Pound told Harriet Monroe, the editor of Poetry, shortly before he sent her the manuscript of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. 'He has actually trained himself and modernized himself on his own (Pound, 1950, p. 40).
So taken with the London scene was Eliot that he abandoned his plans for an American academic career, married an Englishwoman, and turned himself into an English man of letters. Eventually, he became a British subject, proclaimed his allegiance to the Crown, and embraced the Church of England. So transatlantic did he become that today both British and American students of literature claim him as a national author.
In their expatriations, Eliot and Pound were inspired by the example of the great American novelist and short-story writer, Henry James (1843—1916). James spent much of his life in Europe and died a British subject. In his fiction he often explored what he called the 'international theme': the clash of European and American values, the allure and the terror of culture shock, and the challenges to personal identity of prolonged residence abroad. Eliot addresses these Jamesian issues in many of the poems that he published between 1915 and 1922. Indeed, 'Portrait of a Lady' (1915) explicitly acknowledges Eliot's indebtedness by taking its title from one of James's best-known novels.
In developing the international theme, Eliot seems especially concerned with the perils of cosmopolitanism. His poems often satirize the deracination and demoralization of characters who have lived too long abroad: for example, the hollow men of 'Mélange adultère de tout' and 'A Cooking Egg'; the shadowy drifters mentioned by Gerontion in his monologue; and the sinister conspirators in 'Sweeney among the Nightingales'. In a Ruskinian meditation on the decline of Venice entitled 'Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar' (1919), Eliot sketches the debilitating effects of modern commercial and sexual tourism upon both the inhabitants of and the visitors to the city:
Burbank crossed a little bridge Descending at a small hotel;
Princess Volupine arrived,
They were together, and he fell.
Although Eliot's early essays seem to further Matthew Arnold's project of extending intellectual sweetness and light through cosmopolitanism, his early poetry explores the darker side of a purely selfish and materialistic internationalism.
Eliot's Sweeney, who may have been modelled upon a boxer the poet saw in Boston, reminds us that an Irish-American connection was no less crucial to the development of modernism than was the Anglo-American connection. In William Butler Yeats (1865—1939), Ireland produced perhaps the greatest English-language poet of the twentieth century; and in James Joyce (1882—1941), perhaps the greatest novelist. The careers of both Yeats and Joyce were shaped, in part, by their transatlantic alliances, not least by their friendships with Ezra Pound.
Initially, Yeats was the master and Pound the apprentice. Pound may have heard the Irish poet read his work at the University of Pennsylvania in 1903. The young American soon began to write in a Yeatsian manner and to read his own work with an Irish intonation. Esteeming Yeats as the greatest living poet, Pound secured an introduction to him in 1909. Pound shared his mentor's interest in the occult, and regularly attended the weekly meetings that Yeats convened when he was resident in London.
Soon, however, the influence became reciprocal. Between 1913 and 1916, Pound spent several winter months each year with Yeats at Stone Cottage in Sussex. There, he helped Yeats with business and correspondence, and acted as his interlocutor in a wide-ranging dialogue on mysticism, medieval and Renaissance courtly poetry, the relationship of verse and music, and the conversational modes of such writers as François Villon and Walter Savage Landor. Yeats had already begun to incorporate colloquial elements into his own poetic style, and Pound encouraged him in this process of self-refashioning. The young American 'helps me to get back to the definite and the concrete away from modern abstractions', Yeats told Lady Gregory. 'To talk over a poem with him is like getting you to put a sentence into dialect. All becomes clear and natural' (Longenbach, 1988, p. 19). Pound saw to it that poems in Yeats's modern style were published in American little magazines. When Responsibilities, the volume which announced Yeats's mature mode, appeared in 1914, Pound saluted it with a strong review in Poetry (Pound, 1954, pp. 378—81).
Pound also had an impact upon the style of Yeats's later plays. During their winters at Stone Cottage, Pound was completing unfinished translations of classic Chinese poems and Japanese Noh plays that he had received in 1913 from the widow of the eminent American historian of Oriental art, Ernest Fenollosa. When Yeats read the plays, he found their conventions highly congenial. He set about creating a poetic drama that employed stylized declamation and movement, masks, and personifications of gods and spirits. He employed these techniques to dramatize Irish myths and legends for sophisticated, aristocratic audiences. In this genre, too, the twentieth-century transformation of Yeats's style owed much to transatlantic influences.
James Joyce had a less personal, but no less momentous, relationship with Pound than did Yeats. Joyce left Ireland for Trieste several years before Pound arrived in London, and the two men did not meet until 1920. However, Pound took an active interest in Joyce's career from the time he first learned of Joyce's difficulties in finding a publisher for Dubliners. He included a poem by Joyce in the anthology Des Imagistes (1914), and he arranged for A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man to be serialized by the Egoist and published in book form under the Egoist imprint in 1916. Pound also steered the editor of the Egoist, Harriet Shaw Weaver, in Joyce's direction, so that she became one of the Irish writer's most helpful patrons.
Pound was likewise instrumental in the publication of Joyce's modernist masterpiece, Ulysses. As Joyce finished the episodes of his new novel, he sent them to Pound in London, who forwarded them to the Little Review in New York. There, beginning in 1918, they were serialized, at least until the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice persuaded a court that the 'Nausicaa' episode is obscene. Eventually, Ulysses was published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate who operated an English-language bookstore in Paris. The novel appeared in the same year as Eliot's The Waste Land (1922). Both Eliot and Pound reviewed Joyce's book enthusiastically, and the structure of Ulysses, which Eliot described as the 'mythical method' of paralleling ancient narrative with modern events, helped the two poets to shape their respective modernist masterpieces, The Waste Land and The Cantos (Eliot, 1975, p. 178).
Around 1920, the European 'vortex' of modernism began to shift from London to Paris. In that year, Pound published Hugh Selwyn Mauberley as his poetic farewell to London. In 1921 he moved to Paris, convinced that the French capital was now the more vital creative centre. Joyce came to Paris from Zurich in 1920. Many others soon followed. Paris was alluring because of its moral and racial tolerance and because of the favourable rate of exchange between the French franc and the dollar or pound. After the passage of Prohibition in 1919—20, Paris also became known as a place where Americans could drink with impunity. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and the so-called 'lost generation' began to frequent the cafés and boulevards that lined the Seine. The doyenne of the foreign artistic community, Gertrude Stein, who had lived in Paris since 1902, observed the newcomers with an amused and critical detachment.
When William Carlos Williams visited Paris in 1924, he relished the contacts he made there. He met or re-met French artists (Constantin Brancusi, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault), British and Irish writers (Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, Mina Loy and Clive Bell), and American expatriates (Pound, Hemingway, H. D., Robert Mc Almon, George Antheil, Man Ray). An international group of monied patrons supported modern art in Paris : they included Natalie Barney, Peggy Guggenheim, Nancy Cunard, Winifred Ellerman, Sylvia Beach, Samuel Putnam, Harold Loeb and William Bird. Bird operated the Three Mountains Press, which published Williams's Spring and All (1923), Pound's A Draft of XVI. Cantos (1925) and Hemingway's In Our Time (1924). Cunard started the Hours Press, which brought out Pound's A Draft of XXX Cantos (1930). New magazines sprang up, not only in Paris (transition, the Transatlantic Review, Bifur) but also in Milan (This Quarter) and Berlin (Broom). Williams found it difficult to stay in touch with everything that was going on.
Not all of the literary action centred in Paris, however. Pound's Mauberley notwithstanding, London was far from moribund. John Rodker, whose Ovid Press published Pound's sequence, also brought out T. S. Eliot's Ara Vos Prec (1920) and the first British edition of Ulysses (1922). Virginia and Leonard Woolf started the Hogarth Press, which published Eliot's Poems (1919) and the first British edition of The Waste Land, as well as the first English translation of the complete works of Sigmund Freud. Eliot maintained close relations with the Bloomsbury group, and founded an influential new journal called the Criterion, which ran from 1922 to 1939.
The Waste Land, first published in 1922, is the landmark poem of the transatlantic modernist movement. International in both content and provenance, it stunned readers with its disjunctive style, its wide-ranging allusions, and its polyphonic use of languages (English, Latin, French, Italian, Provencal, German, Sanskrit).
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon — O swallow swallow
Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins.
Eliot seemed to assume an audience conversant with all the tongues that filled the world after the destruction of the Tower of Babel.
No less cosmopolitan were the circumstances of the poem's composition and publication. Eliot began The Waste Land in England during a period of nervous breakdown, and continued it in Lausanne, Switzerland, during his convalescence. Returning from Switzerland, he delivered fifty-seven typescript pages of disconnected poetic fragments to Pound in Paris. Pound condensed and shaped the manuscript into the nineteen-page version that we know today. In October 1922 The Waste Land was published in London by the Criterion; in the following month, it appeared in New York in the pages of the Dial. The poem was then issued in book form by Boni and Liv-eright of New York and the Hogarth Press of London. The transatlantic migrations of the poem continued when the typescript was sold to a New York collector named John Quinn. Long thought to be lost, the original version was rediscovered among Quinn's papers in the New York Public Library in 1968 and published in a facsimile edition in 1971 (see Eliot, 1971). The poem created an instant furor on both sides of the Atlantic; William Carlos Williams later compared its impact upon New York to that of an atomic bomb (Williams, 1951, p. 174).
The role of New York in the provenance of The Waste Land reminds us that London and Paris were not the only vortices of the modernist movement. New York and Chicago were major centres as well. American writers who stayed at home read Arnold, Ruskin and William Morris, but they also followed a nativist tradition that had its nineteenth-century roots in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. In the ideology of this Romantic Transcendentalism, America is a 'New World' with a unique historical opportunity to create an ideal society, to devise an order that surpasses the failed and weary feudalism of Europe. This new order will be cosmopolitan in the true, global sense of the term; its culture will be transpacific as well as transatlantic, incorporating indigenous and Oriental as well as European elements. The mission of the American artist, then, is to document the experience and the vision of the New World: to embody its new way of seeing in the visual arts, and to represent its new forms of speech and action in literature. William Carlos Williams summarized his life's work as a pursuit of 'the American idiom' (Mariani, 1981, pp. 758-9).
For all of its declarations of independence, however, New York modernism preserved its transatlantic links with Europe. The Armory Show of 1913 gave many artists and writers their first glimpse of post-Impressionist painting. The bold experimentation of the Fauvists, Cubists and Futurists heartened their American counterparts to break with nineteenth-century conventions. E. E. Cummings tried his hand at avant-garde painting as well as poetry. William Carlos Williams learned to look at nature with the eyes of a non-representational painter, as in the opening lines of 'Spring Strains' (1916):
In a tissue-thin monotone of blue-grey buds crowded erect with desire against the sky -
tense blue-grey twigs slenderly anchoring them down, drawing them in -
two blue-grey birds chasing a third struggle in circles, angles, swift convergings to a point that bursts instantly!
Williams, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore gravitated to Alfred Kreymborg and his little magazine, Others. Soon, New Yorkers could choose among other little magazines published in their city: the Little Review, the Dial, Contact, Hound and Horn, Blues and Pagany. Adventurous publishers and editors such as Horace Liveright, Alfred A. Knopf, Pascal Covici, Macaulay and Co., J. Ronald Lane Latimer, Thomas Seltzer, Caresse and Harry Crosby, Scofield Thayer, and Maxwell Perkins were willing to take financial risks on unconventional manuscripts. Enlightened patrons such as John Quinn supported new trends in the arts, and perceptive critics such as Kenneth Burke, Gorham Munson and Edmund Wilson mediated experimental poetry to interested but puzzled readers.
The receptive cultural milieu of New York in the 1920s also prompted groundbreaking work by Afro-American writers. An audience whose interest in innovative poetry had been stimulated by well-publicized debates over the merits of free verse, The Waste Land and the typography of Cummings was undaunted by the challenging verse of the Harlem Renaissance poets. Countee Cullen and Claude McKay expressed radical sentiments in traditional poetic forms, whereas Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes adopted more experimental techniques. The versatile Hughes employed free verse, dramatis personae and disjunctive poetic sequences in a body of work distinguished by its variety and inventiveness. In addition to drawing upon Afro-American folk culture, Harlem Renaissance writers made use of mainstream poetic traditions. They readily adapted Whitman's democratic voice and vision to an assertive poetry of pan-African pride. They drew inspiration as well from the Irish Celtic Renaissance, a movement which, like theirs, affirmed the identity and heritage of a colonized people (see Bornstein, 1996).
Walt Whitman was also a source of inspiration for the Chicago modernists. When Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson founded Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in 1912, they took their motto from Whitman's 'Notes Left Over': 'To have great poets there must be great audiences too'. Originally, Monroe and Henderson intended Poetry to be a democratic organ of the American Midwestern heartland. They favored Illinois poets such as Carl Sandburg, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, and Canadian disciples of Whitman such as Bliss Carman. Poetry also took up Robert Frost as the epitome of New England regionalism.
Yet the focus of the magazine was not exclusively nativist. With Pound as Foreign Editor from 1912 to 1917, Poetry carried work by Yeats, Eliot and the Imagists alongside that of the Midwesterners. This eclectic mixture of new writing by indigenist, expatriate and foreign poets made Poetry arguably the most significant of all the modernist little magazines.
The cohabitation of indigenists and expatriates in the pages of the little magazines was not always amicable. In 1918—19 a quarrel broke out between them, triggered by English critic Edgar Jepson's attack upon 'The Western School' of American poets (see Pound and Williams, 1996, pp. 5, 36—45). Jepson accused Lindsay, Masters and Frost of verbal posturing and poor workmanship; he cited the work of Eliot as the best that contemporary American poetry had to offer. In his Prologue to Kora in Hell (1919), William Carlos Williams responded to Jepson, contending that Eliot and the other expatriate poets were too Europeanized to be representative of American verse.
Despite such tensions, the two groups co-operated more than they squabbled. The indigenists were not simply provincial xenophobes, although their rhetoric could sound that way. Williams travelled and published in Europe even as he quarrelled with Pound and proclaimed his detestation of Eliot. Wallace Stevens, although he never visited Europe, drew much of his inspiration from books on French culture and art. And Hart Crane (1899—1933), a Midwestern poet who achieved literary success in New York, tried to reconcile the influences of Whitman and Eliot in his long poem, The Bridge (1930). Both predecessors can be heard, for example, in the closing stanzas of Crane's 'Harbor Dawn' section:
The window goes blond slowly. Frostily clears.
From Cyclopean towers across Manhattan waters
- Two - three bright window-eyes aglitter, disk The sun, released - aloft with cold gulls hither.
The fog leans one last moment on the sill. Under the mistletoe of dreams, a star -As though to join us at some distant hill -Turns in the waking west and goes to sleep. (Crane, 1966, p. 56)
If the first stanza recalls Whitman's descriptions of Manhattan and its harbour, the second echoes 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' in its animation of the fog. The Bridge celebrates America, but does so in the international modernist style as Crane understood it: allusive, elliptical and densely metaphoric.
The transatlantic bridge soon became a two-way street. Between the wars, the lure of America drew many Europeans who dreamed of starting afresh in a land of limitless opportunity. Thus, the English poets Iris Barry and Mina Loy migrated to New York, where both made successful careers. Ford Madox Ford married an American painter and spent time during the last decade of his life in New York, Tennessee and Michigan. A. R. Orage, the editor of the New Age, likewise married an American and lived in New York from 1922 to 1932; there, he studied and disseminated the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff. Aldous Huxley moved to California in 1937 and made his home in Hollywood until his death in 1963. Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht came to California as refugees from Nazi Germany. And in 1939, W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood took up more or less permanent residence in the United States.
Of all the literary exiles who came to the land of promise from Britain between the wars, perhaps the most important was D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930). Embittered by the treatment they had met with during the Great War, Lawrence and his wife Frieda left England in 1919, never to return except for brief visits (see Delany, 1978). They lived in Sicily, Ceylon and Australia before arriving in California in September 1922. At the invitation of a wealthy patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan, the Lawrences travelled directly to Taos, New Mexico. There they stayed on three separate occasions between 1922 and 1925; they also undertook two extended trips into Old Mexico.
The idea of the New World as a utopian alternative to Europe had long appealed to Lawrence. He dreamed of founding an ideal colony in Florida, to be called 'Rananim'. Since the suppression of The Rainbow by English authorities in 1915, his principal publisher was Thomas Seltzer of New York. Lawrence was also a keen student of American literature. His fascinating series of essays on American authors and works was published in 1924 under the title Studies in Classic American Literature. As a poet of social and psychological liberation, he had long modelled his style upon the free verse of Walt Whitman.
The mountainside ranches above Taos proved to be congenial to Lawrence's work. Mexican and New Mexican settings appear frequently in the writings of his last decade
(see Sagar, 1995), and a group of poems composed at Taos became part of the collection published in 1923 as Birds, Beasts, and Flowers. In the following passage from 'The Red Wolf' the autumnal landscape of New Mexico inspires a characteristically Lawrentian redefinition of religion:
Now that the sun has gone, and the aspen leaves And the cotton-wood leaves are fallen, as good as fallen, And the ponies are in corral, And it's night,
Why, more has gone than all these; And something has come.
A red wolf stands on the shadow's dark red rim.
Day has gone to dust on the sage-grey desert Like a white Christus fallen to dust from a cross; To dust, to ash, on the twilit floor of the desert. And a black crucifix like a dead tree spreading wings; Maybe a black eagle with its wings out Left lonely in the night In a sort of worship.
In this description, dark gods emerge from the stark, wild earth after nightfall. A Dionysian-chthonic reality displaces or inverts the Apollonian-Christian order of the daylight hours. The passage illustrates the process by which Lawrence's evolving ideas about Western religions were shaped by his experience of the landscapes and pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico and the American Southwest. It is no exaggeration to say that Lawrence's variety of modernism owes as much to the idea and reality of America as T. S. Eliot's does to the idea and reality of England.
Such influence is characteristic of the dynamic interaction of cross-cultural energies that sustained the modernist movement in English-language poetry. As materialism numbed and war convulsed the world, transatlantic modernism struggled to affirm the human spirit and the value of art. In an era of contending visions of global order, the cosmopolitanism of the modernists did not prevail. But it remains as a standing challenge to our shrinking world of standardized markets and commercialized tourism.
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