John Gould Fletcher

John Gould Fletcher is considered by many literary scholars to be among the most innovative twentieth-century poets. He is closely associated with poet Amy Lowell and the Imagist movement she championed. In addition to being an adherent of Imagism, which was dedicated to replacing traditional poetics with a more concise use of language, new rhythms, and a concrete rather than discursive or symbolic treatment of subject, Fletcher also wrote poetry that drew from such varied sources as French Symbolism, Oriental art and philosophy, and music. Later in his career Fletcher concentrated less on technical innovation and began to develop themes he had previously only touched upon in his work, including humanity's relation to nature and the individual's search for God and salvation. During this period, he also became associated with the Fugitives, a group of American poets dedicated to reviving an agrarian way of life and traditional Southern values. Fletcher was born to an affluent Arkansas family on January 3, 1886. His father, who was also John Gould Fletcher, was a veteran of the Confederate Army, and made his fortune after the war, both in brokering cotton and in banking. Already fifty-five at the time of Fletcher's birth, the elder John Gould would prove a fairly remote figure to his son. Of his two parents, Fletcher clearly took after his mother, who was twenty-four years younger than her husband and a great lover of literature, music, and the arts. When Fletcher was three, the family moved into the Albert Pike mansion in Little Rock, where they remained throughout his formative years. In retrospect, Fletcher often spoke of the gloom and desolation of the place—even at an early age, his life was characterized by a solitude from which he would never completely emerge. Having little social life, Fletcher became a voracious reader. His preferences ran toward the decadent and pessimistic, especially as he grew older. The writings of Edgar Allan Poe were his constant companions in adolescence, and while attending Harvard he developed a lifelong love of French literature, devouring the works of Theophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire, as well as Dante Rossetti, William Morris, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde. It was at this time that Fletcher began writing poetry of his own, though he seldom showed it to anyone, being an entirely private person. Fletcher did not prosper at Harvard. He did not fit into Massachusetts society well, neglected the syllabi to pursue his own reading, and skipped classes regularly so as to have more time for the University Library, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the symphony. Determined to pursue a literary career, his lack of application in his studies was the cause of considerable friction between Fletcher and his father, who wanted him to become a banker or lawyer. When his father died in 1906, Fletcher inherited the family fortune and a sizeable annuity. Apparently unable to see the point of further education, and against the wishes of his mother, who, like his father, felt he should leave literature on the side and take on a profession, Fletcher dropped out of Harvard just before the final exams in 1907. The following year he departed the country for Italy. When his mother died in 1910, he did not return home. Venice and Rome were the next sites of Fletcher's ongoing self-education. He soaked up the atmosphere, flirted with the idea of converting to Roman Catholicism, wrote more poetry, and read voraciously. In 1909 he relocated to London, where he began to meet other poets and artists. His interest in painting was especially strong, and he never missed an important exhibition. This abiding fascination with both the arts and music would deeply influence his later poetry, although at the time his work was fairly conventional. He doggedly assailed publishers with his poems, but to no success. Finally, he approached four different publishers and arranged to finance five volumes of his p
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