Begin your rewrite. To do so, imagine yourself as a poet in the early twentieth century, and imagine your rewrite as an attempt to update the outdated elements of the nineteenth-century work you selected. Remember that modernist poems
Capture the cynicism and disappointment many people felt toward outdated nineteenth-century ideas
Focus on the complexities of modern life
Highlight the alienation of the individual in the modern world
Break with past literary traditions and styles
Employ references to diverse cultures, belief systems, and histories
Use experimental language and techniques, such as drawing a distinct line between the poet and the speaker and writing from multiple perspectives and in different voices
Your rewrite must incorporate at least three of the six listed characteristics of modernism. Here is an example of a modernist rewrite of the first stanza of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”:
Wordsworth’s First Stanza
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
First Stanza of a Modernist Rewrite of Wordsworth
I stood coldly alone, like a World War I flying ace
Who cruises over the shells of bombed-out towns.
As the black fog cleared, I saw a building,
Ten thousand crumblecracking bricks;
Beside a forsaken hospital, over a glass-strewn street,
Sagging depressed during Tefnut’s shower.
Part 4: Briefly Explain Your Modernist Rewrite
In a response of at least two paragraphs, provide an explanation of the steps you took to rewrite the Romantic poem you selected. Your explanation should point out at least three typically modernist qualities in your work with regard to elements such as language, style, literary elements, and themes. Here, as an example, is a brief explanation of the modernist rewrite of the first stanza of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”:
In the first stanza of my rewrite, I tried to drastically change the mood of the poem. I did so by first changing the opening simile, linking the speaker (who is most certainly distinct from myself as the poet) to a World War I flying ace looking down on an empty town devastated by war. This image not only calls to mind the destruction that people in the early twentieth century witnessed, but also the loneliness felt by the individual when witnessing such devastation. I introduced ambiguity by not identifying the nationality of the pilot to whom the speaker compares himself: He may be a man seeing the destruction of his own town, or he may be one of the men who brought destruction on the town during battle.
Then I decided to change the daffodils—a symbol of the beauty of the natural world in Wordsworth’s poem—to a crumbling building on an abandoned and ugly street. I thought these images helped convey a sense of loss. I used the word crumblecracking—an invented term—to call to mind how the broken bricks of the building look. This type of experimentation with language is typical of modernist poetry. Finally, I used the word forsaken not only because it suggests abandonment, but also because it calls to mind the last words of Jesus on the cross. This allusion then quickly blends into the reference to a mythological figure, Tefnut, the Egyptian goddess of rain and fertility. This allusion hints at the possibility of remaking a new world out of the fragments of the old, yet the “sagging” hospital attests to how hard such a restoration would be. Thematically, I was trying to depict the loneliness and the alienation of the speaker in this decrepit world.