Although Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” Basho’s haiku, and Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” may be a-logical, each of these is still afforded a movement down the page. These movements are governed by and served by the creation of a networked dialectical space through linked comparisons of image. This space allows for Pound’s “intellectual-emotional complex” to generate intuitive comprehension in a reader at some level.
In the case of longer poems, movement control through image becomes a much more involved task. John Ashbery assumes this task in his long poem, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” which reflects on Parmigianino’s painting of the same name. While the impetus for Ashbery’s poem is ekphrastic, and he returns often to this originating source, he eschews the traditional impulse to control the movement through narrative or language. Most longer poems rely on either narrative (as in epic poems), or rhythm/rhyme constructions (as in ballads) to control their movement. Ashbery, in contrast, uses image to control the movement of his poem. Because this method is non-linear and a-logical, teasing out the movement of the poem can become difficult, as has already been shown.
Pound writes in his essay “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste” that “an image is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time” (200). In the next issue of Poetry, Pound provides a succinct example with his poem “In a Station of the Metro.” Each line presents an intricate image, and to extend Pound’s imperative, creates that “emotional and intellectual complex” in the interplay between the two images:
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd :
Petals on a wet, black bough . Continue reading
Poetry moves. Successful poems contain a movement of some sort from one point to another, and this movement can be regulated by any number of devices to create a “logic” for the poem. Whether this logic offers clarity or obscurity is dependent on the poet, but the poet makes this decision. One of the most clarifying devices for movement is that based on the narrative structure, and it is also one of the oldest. The narrative traces its roots back to the oral tradition, in which a people’s history was translated from generation to generation by vocal memorization, often set to a language’s natural qualities. From “The Epic of Gilgamesh” through “The Odyssey,” “Beowulf,” and into contemporary poetics, the narrative structure has served to tell stories. Moving from A to B to C, a narrative structure often controls the movement of a poem in a logical and straightforward manner. Even in narratives in which the progression cannot necessarily be called logical, as in Mark Strand’s “The King” or Mary Ruefle’s “Full Moon,” the poet uses narrative to create an internal logic. Another common device for controlling the movement from beginning to end of a poem can be seen in the language the poet applies. In utilizing techniques such as rhythm, rhyme, syntax, and line breaks, the poet can control movement even without the imposition of a narrative structure. William Carlos William’s “This is Just to Say” presents a good example of this type of “logic,” or movement, with little imposition of narrative. ee cummings’ poem “loneliness” also exhibits this kind of control, primarily utilizing manipulation of syntax and semantics to effect movement in the poem through extreme deconstruction of the language. Poems which offer neither a primarily narrative structure nor a language-based structure can still present a movement from one point to another.