How Spectra went mainstream
BY MICHAEL WATERSWITTER BYNNER HATED MODERNIST POETRY. A rising literary star who was briefly engaged to Edna St. Vincent Millay, Bynner felt that the new crop of free-verse poetry movements was becoming absurd. Not only were these poets failing to create real art, but they also took themselves far too seriously.
So he decided to satirize it all.
In February 1916, at a ballet entitled Le Spectre de la Rose, Bynner was criticizing the proliferation of experimental poems to some friends when he made a joke. He asked whether they had heard of the poetry movement known as Spectrism—a name he spontaneously invented based on the title of the ballet.
Later, he told his Harvard friend Arthur Davison Ficke about the trickery, and together the duo decided to make “Spectrism” a reality. Their main goal was to parody the Modernist poetry they so distrusted.