tone and pessimism, but that did not stop her rom sending it to her accomplished literary riends. Isabelknew some important fgures in poetry circles because o her work in the Chautauqua, and she used hercontacts to promote her son. One such riend, poet Lew Sarett, who was a speech teacher at Northwest-ern, sent the poem to Harriet Monroe, the inuential ounder o
and an important voicein the burgeoning modernist poetry movement.
Monroe had beriended many o the most renownedpoets o the era, including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, and .S.Eliot.
Monroe wanted to publish “Big Boy” i John would make some changes. She wanted him tochange the title, eliminate proanity, and soen a ew o the words. He reused. Writers and artists hadembraced modernism, and the movement set aside the old rules and shaped a new cultural era.Modernism, a movement that maniested itsel in art, literature, and architecture, is considered by most scholars to have begun in December 1910 and continued through the middle o the twentieth cen-tury. Te 1920s was a particularly rich time or artists o all kinds in the states and in Europe. Te move-ment was characterized by a recultivation o past orms into new styles in art and literature; Robert Ad-ams described this idea as the use o “the past structurally, not or decorative end.”
Adams also notedthe movement emphasized grotesque disparities, dehumanization with a sexual presence, concerned withMarx, Freud, science, and technology, exhibiting an anti-rationalist vane, as well as an absence o politi-cal engagement. Well-known artists that practiced in the modern style were Picasso and writers .S. Eliot,Ezra Pound, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Franz Kaa.
Tough John did not write in a modern-ist style—his work is in the mode o traditional Americanists like Walt Whitman—his early, reeormexperimental style shows the inuence o the modernists.While John had been introduced to the movement and to modern literature and began to see himsel as a poet, he was still a young man in Birmingham, torn between personal passion and parental expecta-tions. Aer a ew months in the mills, John traveled with his parents to dierent places. He and his atherwent on a tour o U.S. Steel plants in Pittsburgh and Chicago, where his ather tried to convince himto return to Cornell and continue to study engineering. Aer they returned to Birmingham, John only became more convinced that he wanted to be a poet. His mother, thrilled that he was pursuing art andliterature, oered to accompany him to Ithaca. Tey could rent a house together and John would enrollin summer school at Cornell while she kept the house or him and audited courses. Isabel was eager toescape the heat o Birmingham in the summer and longed or the intellectual companionship that a uni-versity town oered. John readily agreed.It was also during this summer session at Cornell that John met his frst great writing mentor, Pro-essor William Strunk, co-author o the now classic little book,
Te Elements of Style
. Strunk was a well-respected, longtime proessor o composition at Cornell, and that summer John enrolled in two o hisclasses, Advanced Composition and Shakespearean ragedy. According to John, his encounter withStrunk was a turning point in his lie, and he discovered himsel as a writer. “He intervened at just theright time to teach me restraint, directness, a stripped, lean style,” John explained. “At the same time heencouraged me, saying I was a natural writer and one o the most promising students he had ever had.”
Te relationship with Strunk was the most important tie he made at Cornell—even more important thanhis raternity or any o his other classes.