Mary Barnard, American Imagist

By Sarah Barnsley

Subjects: Poetry, American Literature, Literary History
Paperback : 9781438448565, 196 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781438448558, 196 pages, December 2013

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
1. “Spare But Musical”: The Poetry of Mary Barnard
2. Late Imagism
2.1 “The Only Really Worthwhile Piece of Poetry Criticism I Had Ever Read”: Pound’s Imagism
2.2 Barnard’s Imagist Local
2.3 “Sand Is the Beginning and the End/Of Our Dominion”: Barnard, H.D., and the Gender of Imagism
2.4 “We Can’t Get to the World Hard Enough or Fast Enough… We Just Must Write”: Barnard, Williams, and American Imagism
3. “A Would-Be Sappho”
3.1 Sappho and the Imagists
3.2 Barnard’s Sapphic Imagism
3.3 Barnard’s Sapphic-American Modernism
4. “A New Way of Measuring Verse”
4.1 Barnard and Pound: An ABC of Metrics
4.2 The Weighted Syllable
4.3 “A Well-Conceived Form within which Modification May Exist”: Barnard, Williams, and the Question of American Measure
4.4 “An Idiom AND a Swing”: Sappho: A New Translation
5. “A Bright Particular Excellence”: The Achievement of Mary Barnard
Epilogue: The Mary Barnard Papers: A Note

Uncovers a new chapter in the story of American modernist poetry.


Perhaps best known for her outstanding translation of Sappho, poet Mary Barnard (1909–2001) has until recently received little attention for her own work. In this book, Sarah Barnsley examines Barnard's poetry and poetics in the light of her plentiful correspondence with Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and others. Presenting Barnard as a "late Imagist," Barnsley links Barnard's search for a poetry grounded in native speech to efforts within American modernism for new forms in the American grain. Barnsley finds that where Pound and Williams began the campaign for a modern poetry liberated from the "heave" of the iambic pentameter, Barnard completed it through a "spare but musical" aesthetic derived from her studies of Greek metric and American speech rhythms, channeled through materials drawn direct from the American local. The first book on Barnard, and the first to draw on the Barnard archives at Yale's Beinecke Library, Mary Barnard, American Imagist unearths a fascinating and previously untold chapter of twentieth-century American poetry.

Sarah Barnsley is Lecturer in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London.


"Clearly structured and elegantly written, Mary Barnard, American Imagist far exceeds any act of routine scholarly 'recovery.' In addition to giving full recognition to Barnard's superb skills as a translator of Sappho, Sarah Barnsley also makes a convincing case for her original poetic output and for her contribution to the evolution of American free verse." — Peter Nicholls, author of Modernisms: A Literary Guide, Second Edition