BH. John Gould Fletcher


2. Irradiations, Sand and Spray. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915. Reprint, New York: AMS, 1981.

Dedicated to Amy Lowell, ‘Best of Friends and Poets’, who arranged publication at Houghton Mifflin, as she did later with Fletcher’s Goblins and Pagodas (4). The work is wholly reprinted in 9, and excerpts appear in 14 and 20. Perhaps it is worth noting that if Fletcher’s dates in ‘The Orient and Contemporary Poetry’ (15) are accurate, his first meeting with Pound took place in Paris in May 1913. Pound had published his ‘Few Don’ts for an Imagiste’ (BK2) the previous March, and the influence of that work and Pound’s other pronouncements about Imagism, wholly absent in Visions of the Evening (see 1), are readily apparent in this and later volumes of Fletcher’s verse. See also BA4.

a. Irradiations. The volume demonstrates throughout the influence of Fletcher’s meeting with Pound, but in this forty-page section the point is especially clear. The ‘Don’ts for an Imagist’ (BK2) are generally avoided, certainly more so than in Fletcher’s earlier work, and the technique of super-position, which Pound had derived largely from Japanese models (see BK12), is employed often, most notably in the closing lines of sections VII and XVII and the opening of XX. Pound liked the poem well enough to arrange for publication of sections from it in Poetry, but nonetheless offended Fletcher with critical comments about it, and later, no doubt in part as a result of this, and no doubt to the detriment of his later work, Fletcher sided with Lowell in her much-publicised split with Pound. About section VII, Miner notes that ‘the debt to Japan . . . is almost unbelievably great’: the setting recalls ukiyoe, the work closes with Pound’s super-pository technique, and the ‘situation’ is taken from a haiku by Buson (Ap), Harusame ya / monogatari yuku / mino to kasa (Spring rain / a tale shared / by raincoat and umbrella). Fletcher acknowledged later that he had ‘most certainly read the Buson haiku’ by the time he wrote the poem (in 22c, see A25, p. 175). Sections appeared earlier in Poetry 3 (December 1913) and Egoist 1 (March 1914).

b. Sand and Spray (A Sea Symphony). Miner (A25) calls attention to Impressionist techniques in poems by Aiken, Fletcher, and others, and argues that this is indebted in part to interest in ukiyoe. The point is particularly evident here, though the work does not directly incorporate Japanese subjects. Compare to Fletcher’s later ‘symphonies’ (4b), some of which derive imagery from Japanese art, and to the ‘symphonies’ of Aiken (BA3a, 9, and 17) and Ficke (BG8c and 9c). Aiken’s symphonies were begun the year this work was published, at a time that Aiken and Fletcher were neighbours on Walnut Street in Boston and had ‘dived into Japanese and Chinese poetry and art’ (see the BH introduction); Ficke’s take their subjects from particular Japanese paintings. According to Fletcher’s account in ‘The Orient and Contemporary Poetry’ (15), this work was composed sometime before the winter of 1913-14, a point he remembers in connection with the fact that he had not yet seen Pound’s drafts of poems that later appeared in Cathay (BK15).





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