A Few Don’ts from an Imagiste – Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound, painting by Wyndham Lewis, 1938–39.

This manifesto is an appendix to a collection of poetry ‘The Imagists’ and is Pound’s expression on how to use language, rhythm and rhyme in the Imagist way. I think his words are sensible advice for good poetry: “Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.” Imagist poetry is a form that is quite pared-back and concerned with the image itself, but I think looking at the use of adjectives in a poem is a good thing and the poet should always be choosing words carefully.

Some of what Pound writes in this essay corresponds well with Dylan Thomas’ Poetic Manifesto, which I have written about in an earlier post. Where Thomas talks about being a ‘craftsman’ and using all the poetic tools available to him, Pound writes:

Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate

and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect

to know harmony and counterpoint and all the minutiae of his

craft… even if the artist seldom have need of them.


I like this and it makes me think of two things: Basho’s “Learn the rules; and then forget them,” and the idea of unconscious competence, which is the finally stage of learning when you no longer have to think about every detail and tool you are using. This would be a wonderful stage to reach as a writer!

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