Spectric Poetry

In 1916 a slender volume of poetry titled Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments introduced the Spectric school of poetry to the world. It joined many other experimental schools of poetry then currently in vogue, such as the Imagists, the Futurists, and the Idealists.

The Spectric poems were rather bizarre and nonsensical, but were also fun, full of life, and decked out with colorful (albeit illogical) imagery. Lines such as these were typical:

I have seen the grey stars marching,
And the green bubbles in wine,
And there are Gothic vaults of sleep.

The Spectric philosophy, as explained by its founders Emanuel Morgan and Anne Knish, was to embrace the immediacy of experience, even if that experience could not be expressed rationally. Soon Spectrism had attracted a growing band of followers.

Despite repeated requests for meetings and interviews, the two founders, Morgan and Knish, never appeared in public. This led to rumors of a hoax, rumors that were confirmed in 1918 when the poet Witter Bynner admitted that he and his friend Arthur Davison Ficke were the true creative forces behind Spectric poetry.

Bynner explained that their goal had been to parody the overly pompous experimentalism that was the fad of the moment, and so they had invented the free-spirited characters of Morgan and Knish. However, many critics pointed out that the imposture appeared to have unleashed Bynner and Ficke's own inner creative energies. Not only was the Spectric poetry not that bad, but also the poetry that Bynner and Ficke published subsequently was lighter and more playful in tone, as if it had been infused with the energy of Spectrism.
Links and References
  • Smith, William Jay. (2000). The Spectra Hoax. (reprint of 1961 ed.). Story Line Press.


There are no comments for this article.