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British Poetry Essay

4271 words - 18 pages

Knowledge of contemporary British poetry is of great importance when it comes to understanding the reigning trends of England. The 1970s saw a fair amount of polemic concerning the discontinuities of the national \"traditions,\" most of it concerned with poetry, all of it vulnerable to a blunt totalizing which demonstrated the triumphant ability of \"nation\" to organize literary study and judgment--as it does still, perhaps more than ever.
It remains the case twenty years later that there is a strong hint of the majority of the english poets to rediscover their ‘Englishness’ as a poet, and at the same time the presence of the various other cultures ensures that their remains a deep variety ...view middle of the document...

Since 1945 British poetry has moved steadily from what many regard as twentieth century parochial to a twenty-first century international. In the space of little more than fifty years the insular, clear verse of mainland English Britain has changed from being a centralist and predominantly male, seemingly academic practice to become a multi-hued, post-modern, cultural entertainment, available to all. Some observers see this as a liberating. Others regard it as more of a descent into vernacular sprawl. But, as ever, reality cannot be so readily defined. When the war ended the new poetry which emerged still bore traces of the measured and uneventful thirties verse that had gone before it. Poets of what became known as the neo-Romantic movement, Vernon Watkins (1906-1967), W.S.Graham (1918-1986), Patricia Beer (1919- ), George Barker (1913-1991) and John Heath-Stubbs (1918- ) and others, wrote as if the British world had not changed irrevocably. The influence of pre-war founder figures W.B.Yeats (1865-1939), T.S.Eliot (1888 - 1965), Edwin Muir (1887-1959), Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), W.H.Auden (1907-1973), and Robert Graves (1895-1985) remained strong. The modernists David Jones (1895-1974) and Basil Bunting (1900-1985), with Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M.Greive - 1892-1978) in Scotland, stayed outsider forces. In Wales the Thomases, Dylan (1914-1953) and R.S. (1913-2000), made great marks on the map. But the poetry was not yet a true product of its times.
The reaction came in the early fifties, and by the time Dylan Thomas died in 1953, The Movement as the new tendency was called had obtained a coherence. The work of its poets nurtured rationality, was inhospitable to myth, was conversationally pitched (although lacking the speech rhythms of American counterparts like William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) and was deliberately formal and clear. Movement poets opposed modernism and had little truck with international influences. They regarded themselves as a direct continuation of mainstream English tradition. There were few sparks and much temperate, slow reflection. Members, yoked together somewhat artificially, have not, however, all remained true to their first principles. Thom Gunn (1929-) and Donald Davie (1922-1995) went on to encompass the whole gamut of American, open field and Black Mountain writing with Gunn using syllabic meters and Davie becoming an interpreter of Pound. But at the centre a tight stiff-lipped Englishness glowed in the work of Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) John Wain (1925-1994), Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985), D.J.Enright (1920-), and Elizabeth Jennings (1926-).
But on the fringes things were different. The Movement had its significant outsiders. Stevie Smith (1902-1971) was a total original who wrote \"like William Blake rewritten by Ogden Nash\" (Anthony Thwaite - Poetry Today, 1996, p 28). Other poets, less hostile to romanticism, were also steadily making their mark - Jon Silkin (1930-1998), Sylvia Plath (1932 - 1963), and two of...

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