On this day…2 March

On 2 March 1914 Des Imagistes was published.

Des Imagistes was primarily an anthology of poetry by Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle (HD), and Richard Aldington, who together contributed twenty-three of the thirty-five poems. The anthology also included poems by FS Flint, TE Hulme and Amy Lowell, and one poem by James Joyce: ‘I hear an army charging upon the land.’

Joyce had written the poem in Paris and sent it to his brother Stanislaus on 8 February 1903. Stanislaus claimed the poem arose from an actual dream that Joyce had, the imagery of which had disturbed him. The poem had impressed WB Yeats when he read it, and it was Yeats who prompted Ezra Pound to contact Joyce in December 1913 to ask if he had anything he wanted to publish. Before Joyce had a chance to reply, another letter from Pound arrived to say that Yeats had shown him ‘I hear an army…’ Pound was impressed and wanted permission to include it in a poetry anthology he was editing.

Pound’s anthology was already well behind schedule. The original manuscript had been sent to the American printer in the summer of 1913, but the printer’s delays meant that the volume wasn’t finally published until March 1914 – luckily, since the delay allowed Pound to include Joyce’s poem. Des Imagistes, edited by Ezra Pound, was published in New York on 2 March 1914 as the first number of a new magazine, The Glebe. It was published in London in April 1914.

Perhaps it might have seemed strange to Joyce to suddenly find himself part of a ‘movement’ in poetry. Imagists sought to create poems that were a direct representation of an image, without unnecessary words, using speech or musical rhythms. The idea and the name ‘imagism’ was later taken over by Amy Lowell (and mockingly referred to as ‘amygism’). The Egoist magazine ran a special imagist number in May 1915, but by then Pound had already taken his ideas about the image and joined them to the vorticism of Wyndham Lewis.

Joyce’s poem was also included in another anthology, The Wild Harp (1913), edited by Irish poet Katherine Tynan. Joyce wrote to her in April 1914 to point out two mistakes in the printing, mistakes which also occurred in Des Imagistes.


Sources & Further Reading:

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – New and Revised Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1965.

– -: Poems & Exiles, edited with an Introduction and Notes by JCC Mays, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1992.

Kenner, Hugh: The Pound Era, London: Pimlico, 1991.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.