I’m captivated by the ethos of innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking at the heart of the modernist literary movement of the twentieth century. The modernist imperative “make it new,” attributed to the poet, critic, and translator Ezra Pound, a champion of the movement, was a call for writers to revolt against the conventions of the time and break new ground by reinventing their art forms. Provocative as it was, Pound’s dictum was borrowed and thus hardly new in and of itself. His interest in Confucianism acquainted him with the story of Shang Dynasty ruler Ch’eng T’ang, who is said to have inscribed a similar phrase on the side of his bathtub as a daily reminder. While the economics of commercial publishing have tempered the radical spirit of modernism in many ways, I believe there is still room for writers to consciously experiment with literary form and expression—even at the risk of “failure.” At my agency, our goal is to give clients the freedom to push boundaries, to make something new and better—or at the very least to make the familiar strange and ultimately feel new again.
—Akin Akinwumi of Willenfield Literary Agency
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