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By Margaret Dickie

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But it is curious that this particular generation of poets should be so attracted, because they had been committed in the beginning to brevity, intensity, Page 2 imagistic precision, rhythmical rigor. A paradigmatic case is Pound, whose long poem sprawls over half a century of composition even when he argued that by great art he meant "something like 'maximum efficiency of expression'" (LE 56). Actually, the composition of the long poem marked a second stage of creative activity for the American Modernists.

This persistence against their initial difficulties and the different ways in which they undertook to recommence unsteadied their poems, as the narratives ahead will explain; but as a common tactic of all these poets, it emphasizes both the poets' unrelenting intentions to create the long poem and paradoxically their willingness to learn from the composition the requirements of form. At the beginning, these poets had a firm if untested conviction in their own experimental powers, and a peculiar confidence in the power of art or in the discipline of the long form to sustain them.

During this interim, Williams diverted his attention from poetry, trying other forms of expressionnovels, history, short stories, playsas if he were seeking in every genre but poetry the means of longer form. Finally, he turned to the long poem, claiming that he had had it in mind since the beginning of his career, although in a lifetime of immense productivity, this poem refused to form itself. Like Eliot, Williams had uncertainties of conception and purpose which troubled him the more because he imagined he had made accommodations for them in his open and generous conception of form.

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