For T. E. Hulme

Embarkation

Troop train boarding
steam, smoke and blur of faces
the cavernous crowd left waving
down the line, drowned
in English rain.

The Channel port a soldierly swell
monochrome and uniform
on the gangplank you glimpsed
an underworld, shed youth
and crossed yourself
across the Rubicon
to France

A cold soldier

Warm yourself with words
flame, enemy, seeing red
hot-blooded orders — but stars
look down in an ice cold stare
the greatcoat worn from wear
a ready-made shroud or nesting
for rats, neutral and grey as ashes.

Gunfire crackle, wood catching light
tracer arcs, sparklers, smoke from the bonfire
gas thick as a blanket
kept some warm

Last Quarter

Even here seasons spread
an influence, a hint
of something natural still
beneath embattled landscapes
snow, grass, poppy, leaf,
remembering Endon birthdays
and ruddy wonderment of moon
a hedge, pale childish faces

Where the shell hole puddles
a grimacing lunatic, profiled
behind drawn curtains
of cloud

September 28th 1917

Brevity of language
swift years for living
bullet, wound, tears
all – that – was, the inner
seeping out, earthbound
miasma a rose offering
to heaven. And your poetry
archived in the circle.

Fate decreed it briefer still
the Imagist’s full reverie, unhearing
that smashing shell to smithereens

A Belgian cemetery, a bare-boned epitaph:
‘one of the war poets’

These verses reference some poems of T. E. Hulme - nominal father of Imagist poetry. Through them I've tried to capture the aesthetic of this movement, according to Frank's prompt: Imagism revisited

54 Comments on “For T. E. Hulme

  1. Exquisite! I can see the imagist aesthetic clearly in your poems! Thank you for joining us. Don’t forget to add your post to Mister Linky, at the bottom of the post. 😉

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  2. All four poems are stunning, Laura, and the imagery in each of them is perfect. In ‘Embarkation’, for me the central image has to be
    ‘steam, smoke and blur of faces
    the cavernous crowd left waving’
    and, of course, the English rain. That’s how I imagine the men departing in WW1. In ‘Last Quarter’, I was drawn to ‘embattled landscapes’ and:
    ‘shell hole puddles
    a grimacing lunatic, profiled
    behind drawn curtains
    of cloud’.
    ‘A cold soldier’ made me shiver, especially the stars looking down in an ‘ice cold stare’ and the way the whole poem comes together in the two rhyming lines with ‘the greatcoat worn from wear’, with the only things to keep soldiers warm:
    ‘Gunfire crackle, wood catching light
    tracer arcs, sparklers, smoke from the bonfire
    gas thick as a blanket’.

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    • many thanks Kim for all your feedback and the imagery that you picked up on. Strange that the brevity of this aesthetic gave rise to four poems but they belong together as you so rightly see in the connections you made.

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  3. I think Last Quarter is my favourite – the childhood memories contrasting with the present horror. You give us a series of visceral images, very impressive, very sensory.

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    • I did wonder if I had a favourite and your pick is probably the one I would have bet least on but it speaks of the month, his birthday – just a week or so before his death. No idea what phase of the moon then but the play on quarter for taking no prisoners. Thank you Sarah for such lovely appreciation

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  4. A monumental quartet of imagist poetics; incredible, a wonderful sense of time and place. If just stumbled upon one would mistake you for an anti-war poet from the 20’s. One of your very best efforts.

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    • reeling from your feedback Glenn! Many many thanks for the encouragement. Though not anti-war per se – just imagism as is

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  5. Perfect Laura! I love the imagery here like ‘drowned in English rain’,
    ‘red hot-blooded orders’,
    ’embattled landscapes’ and ‘…earthbound miasma a rose offering
    to heaven’
    You nailed this prompt!

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  6. They feel like a linked series to me as well. The first one, “Embarkation,” brings vivid images to my mind and heart.

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  7. A stunning war series, Laura, steeped in imagery…even how you describe the greatcoat!

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  8. An exquisite series… so well done. They all speak to me but esp. “A cold soldier” that gave me a shiver of cold and resignation.

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  9. Your poem ably captures the waste and horror of WW1. It reminds of how I felt when I visited Gallipoli in Turkey. That war has left a terrible stain on history. The battlefields still carry it.

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  10. Absolutely stunning! Felt your words down into my bones … chilling. You gifted us emotion in perfect imagist style. Thank you.

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  11. kaykuala

    a ready-made shroud or nesting
    for rats, neutral and grey as ashes.

    Fantastic take Laura! Your imagery is great. Even a simple nesting rat can evoke lots of grey images neutral by nature but real in effect! There are lots more of other images.

    Hank

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    • many thanks Hank for your appreciation – rats were familiar in the trenches so I figured they would take what they could for their nests

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  12. Scholarly, imagistic, and evocative. Powerful work.

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  13. Such vivid images for such a sad time in History! The trench coat a shroud or a home for rats…doesn’t get any move vivid than that! Well done Laura.

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  14. I really enjoyed your poems Laura. I could see the scenes unfolding in my mind. You told a beautiful tale with vivid imagery.

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  15. A stunning quartet of perfect imagist poetry.
    First stanza of Embarkation was a condensed film.
    Second stanza of A Cold Soldier – I could feel that gas as the only warmth to be found.
    From Last Quarter: Eerie feeling in the back of my neck:
    “Where the shell hole puddles
    a grimacing lunatic, profiled
    behind drawn curtains”
    From September 28:
    “A Belgian cemetery, a bare-boned epitaph:
    ‘one of the war poets’” – A sad recognition

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