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Poetry Guide: Ideogrammic method

The Ideogrammic Method was an technique expounded by Ezra Pound which allowed poetry to deal with abstract content through concrete images. The idea was based on Pound's reading of the work of Ernest Fenollosa.

Pound gives a brief account of it in his book The ABC of Reading (1951). He explains his understanding of the way Chinese characters were formed, with the example of the character for 'sunrise' and 'East' being essentially a superposition of the characters for 'tree' and 'sun'; that is, a picture of the sun tangled in a tree's branches. He then suggests how, with such a system where concepts are built up from concrete instances, the concept of 'red' might be presented: by putting together the pictures of:


This was a key idea in the development of Imagism.