An Imagist Footnote

Perhaps the most obscure name to whom the loose label of Imagist can be applied is that of Max Michelson. He is not included in Peter Jones’s Imagist Poetry (1972) or in Bob Blaisdell’s Imagist Poetry: An Anthology (1999). The only modern anthology in which he is represented is William Pratt’s The Imagist Poem: Modern Poetry in Miniature (2001):

Midnight

Midnight. The air is still,

And yet there seems to be a sound

Brooding in it, tearing. I hear it

With all my quivering body

But not with my ears.

Suddenly it bursts ā€“ muffled, hoarse, detached

From any earthly object.

It is spring

Charging through the night.

Michelson (1880-1953) had a short-lived connection to Imagism. For example, a few of his poems were first published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in 1915, and in Others. In The Egoist, Vol. 3, December 1916, there were seven of his poems, then in January 1917, three more.

The account of his life and work is to be found in a slim book edited by his grandson, Peter Michelson: The Extant Poetry and Prose of Max Michelson, Imagist (1880-1953) (Edwin Mellen Press, 2000). In a biographical sketch he tells us that his grandfather’s already fragile mental state disintegrated completely in 1920 and he was interned for the next 33 years of his life in a state mental hospital. This sad story is fleshed out by Peter Michelson with the complete extant poems, and a handful of articles, reviews and letters ā€“ just 113 pages in total.

Michael Copp

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