Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
Suzie A. Park
This study examines patterns of efficiency in the poetry and theory of William Wordsworth, Hilda Doolittle, and other figures from the Modernist and Romantic periods. I begin by defining perfect efficiency as occurring when energy transforms, without loss, inside a closed energy system, and I offer perpetual motion machines as hypothetical examples of this impossible state. I then demonstrate the process of efficiency in William Wordsworth's poetry, which begins with circumlocutory poetic cycles but contracts into terse repetitions. Since technical efficiency is calculated by the formula output/input, poetry's subjectivity makes poetic efficiency difficult to measure. However, I suggest that repetitions offer an internal scale that compares efficiencies through relative concision. To address twentieth century poetry I begin with Gertrude Stein's notion of a "Portrait," which is an aesthetic closed system that nonetheless multiplies meaning through repetition. I then examine Ezra Pound, who led the Vorticists to implement a symbol of perfect efficiency, and, I discover that, just as vigorous and destructive vibrations arise in an energetic engine, Vorticism collapsed into chaos—not in spite of but because of its advocates' vehement assertions of order. Pound also showcases H.D.'s poetry as a triumph of the efficient Image, which is like an objectified emotion. As with Wordsworth and Stein, I identify H.D.'s repetitions, which signal, instead of the accomplishment of perfection, the process of efficiency. I conclude with the observation that efficient poetry does not denote concise poetry. I suggest that perfect efficiency demands the elimination of all disparate elements, eventually its beneficiary and even its creator.
Nathaniel, Steven A., "The Lyric and the Lathe: Dreams of Perfect Poetic Efficiency, 1800-1917" (2015). Masters Theses. 2376.