Metamodernist Imagism

Imagist, objectivist, metamodernist, they all share one thing in common: lack of association. I’m reading A Farewell to Arms right now, after having saved it for this moment for years. I’m struck by the imagist descriptions of drinking. Hemingway and his Iceberg Theory were part of the Ezra Pound-led imagist group. It goes something like this: any time we refrain from associating our own subjective feelings with an image, it becomes crisper, more symbolic, realer, closer to a Platonic ideal and less arbitrary. Let’s try to write like this in our metamodernist era. Here’s my try, in the style of Hemingway:

Hemingway’s Imagism (My Attempt)

The porch was made of wooden planks and surrounded by corrugated steel. The night was cold and hard and there was little that could be done to stave off the wind. But what we did was drink and that was enough. The glass of the stout was colder than the beer itself and chilled the drink in its glass. When we had finished I walked outside to my bike.

The bike had had a lot of money put into it. It had a new crank, a new seat twice over, countless wheel truings, new tires, brake cables, lock and headlights. I had ridden a thousand miles on it at least and it lay against the wall the way a woman would lean against a pillow, with her arm against her head, waiting to be used and to enjoy it.

I rode it home and, hungry from the stout, I took a salami from the fridge. I cut the salami carefully so that the herbs it had been preserved in did not come off on the clean table. She had cleaned it for the party. But I was drunk and hungry and wanted to eat the salami quickly so that my stomach would stop growling, but when I cut through the meat, although I cut slowly and carefully so as not to cut through its plastic wrapping, still traces of herbs were left on the bamboo cutting board.

Daniel Adler‘s Imagism

The mornings in the spring and summer when I would wake and look out the kitchen window at the glowing early-morning sky and train tracks, then settle onto the couch for morning work before showering and boiling water for pasta, then eating and skating in the ever-warm sun to the cafe for a few hours before coming back to the apartment and preparing for my girlfriend to return from her work day. Already my body warms with nostalgia when I imagine the click of her heels against the wooden floor when she would come home…

Or that week we broke up and it rained all week and I spent countless hours in that cafe DTUT on the Upper East Side, trying to accustom myself to that lifestyle, that 2nd avenue lifestyle of longing to be closer to the park, farther downtown, and the long hot muggy evenings that faded into a quiet blackness interrupted only by an eighteen wheeler rattling down the street. Pounding the pavement on Park Avenue, asking doormen if their buildings are hiring, and at night drinking beer, cold beer in the heat of the fourth-story apartment. That afternoon I met her at the Italian restaurant in Macy’s and had the squid ink pasta, rich and creamy red sauce, china reflective and heavy and her lioness hair curling over her shoulders, her big bag packed with clothes for a week in Naples.

A new apartment, coming home, feeling settled, the evenings spent at my desk looking out the window, already feeling the slight draft and the salt lamp leaking ionic juice onto the wood, curious passers-by flashing a glance through the steel cage that covers the window at me, me imagining being them looking up at me, this guy at his perch, with his ninety-degree rotated iPad glowing in the apricot light of a salt crystal lamp…Those Saturday afternoons after biking home from Williamsburg with the weather cooling and dismounting our bikes in the bus spot in front of our apartment, with the projects foursquare from us and the parked cars beginning right in front of our window, the bus stop a kind of disembarkation pad specifically for us, my brother coming over, the lengthening shadows of September and now, now the quickly cooling air of October and November and a new era, one that will undoubtedly provide me with even more raw experience—but mostly contentment and struggle.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s