Guide A History of American Poetry

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When you asked me to make this list, I was thinking about a reader with an appetite for learning more about poetry. Such a reader might enjoy a smorgasbord of fascinating stuff about American poetry—like this book. In its pages, one finds many of the best critics of the last thirty years, absolute authorities, in fine form, distilling their classic takes. This book also includes emerging scholars and scholar-poets. The sheer variety of topics is stunning. While the writers are mostly from the academy, they put away the apparatus of scholarly argument and write really brilliantly.

I think what Merwin means is that American poetic traditions have evolved from identifiable progenitors. A capacious, democratic, culturally-enmeshed, and politically-alert tradition grows from the root of Whitman. An environmental tradition that comes to us from Frost, Emerson, and Mary Oliver. Many poets from groups who struggle for equity trace the roots of their work to s Harlem.

The Emily Dickinson Archive is a feat of scholarly effort and a cutting-edge digital project.

Dickinson never willingly published anything. Fewer than a dozen of her poems saw print in her lifetime. She wrote nearly 1, poems, often working on many poems at one time, like a painter working on a bunch of canvases or a gardener tending flowers. You can read each poem in her distinctive handwriting, with distinctive punctuation. We no longer live in a world with much handwriting. But penmanship is a form of self-presentation that writers once thought about while crafting their work. So this archive allows you to experience her work more fully than would an ordinary anthology.

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way? Poems can be electrifying; you feel a great poem in your body. I chose two books that deliver a reader into a style and worldview that is completely its own. Great poets create not just a set of discrete poems that say something about the world in which we abide, but a way of looking at the world encoded in their style. He wrote them during his lunch breaks. What is lunch break?

You follow him around New York City and watch his imagination hunger after and take satisfaction in things. He was also a critic of mid-century art and a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. Poetry and other arts have been essential to each other at times in their development, including during the moment of Modernism.

The Columbia History of American Poetry

Modernists were reimaging the form of art, with Cubism, mobiles, and fresh poetic forms. I love poets in whom one sees openness towards other arts. As I said earlier, Langston Hughes loved emerging jazz music. Walt Whitman loved the opera. Emily Dickinson played the piano.

Cary Nelson

The work of Elizabeth Bishop is its own world, that has its own mesmerizing power. She has become, for many American poets, the 20th-century progenitor. She is the person in the American poetry gene pool who manages to talk about feelings, including uncomfortable feelings, at the deepest registers. He is interested, rather, in being an American. And the doubts the theme of his poem reasonably raises, to be candid, are not about his conceit but about whether being an American is quite as interesting as all that.

No doubt it means a good deal in New England to be a Lowell. But on the only occasion I ever met Robert Lowell, he talked about his family and nothing else; and his poems and prose works alike, if not literally about nothing else, seldom fail to mention or imply something specifically tribal or personal. Interesting, in a way. But not exactly the most interesting thing one might have talked about; and one sensed in that conversation with Lowell, as in the poems themselves, an airless, self-lacerating consciousness unready to look at the world around it in Keatsian gusto or indeed at all, unready to see anything outside the tribe as possessing more than an alien and unassimilable significance.

The poetic tradition that stretches from Whitman to Robert Lowell is a highly introverted and endogamous tradition: it starts with itself, as a subject, or with its tribe or nation, and seldom gets much further. Somehow or other, external reality does not look as interesting to the American poet as it does to a European. That calls for some explanation. I do not know that we should neglect the obvious; and one explanation, to be blunt, is that it looks less interesting because it is so. View cart Subscribe Login.

How to Give Why Give? How to Give Store. England, as all the world knows, has poets. It may indeed be a privilege to be an American, in this century. But rare? And in the introduction to his anthology American Poetry , Donald Hall, an American who knows Europe well, insists in equally implausible vein that being an American poet is quite unlike being a poet anywhere else—and here one can be sure that the implied contrast is European. And what, one asks incredulously, is so strange about working in an insurance office? Poetry, Hall darkly concludes, is an un-American activity.

And the myth runs wider. William Carlos Williams died in believing he had devised a distinctively American meter, and to the end of his life seems to have thought of nationality as the natural place to start any literary argument. But in earlier generations you could not just be a poet in America. You had to be an American poet. II To such questions, which are not rhetorical, the best answers may not come from an outsider. IV As for meter, there are no national meters peculiar to America or to Britain, and it may be strongly doubted if there ever were—at least for long.

It heads an enormous shift in 19th-century English toward the license of the additional weak syllable. Pound, Eliot, and Frost are among the multitudinous heirs of that tradition: but there is nothing national about it. By the time Pound settled in England in , the tyranny of the iambic was already a dead letter, except in his own imagination.

If there was ever a chance of evolving meters in English peculiar to a single nation, that chance, in an age of instant communication, had already been irretrievably lost.

History of American Children's Poets 3: the 1940s

The implications of all that are wide-ranging—not least in the invigoratingly snobbish implication that not everyone has emotions worth talking about, and that Eliot himself does. That implication, though perhaps faintly disagreeable, may after all be accurate, and it would be over-delicate to shy away from it merely because it is disagreeable. It may also be right.

Not everyone has emotions worth escaping from: Eliot, as recent biographers have plainly shown, was a tragic figure, and did. But his stance is also highly American. The American poet of that age was proud in his possession of notable emotion—highly conscious of being special, whether as an individual, like Eliot, or as a member of a family, like Lowell, or as a citizen of an emergent nation like Whitman. Escaping from all that into a world of things, or events, or great ideas, which Eliot proposed, can indeed look perverse, as Berryman remarked, in the sense of wildly unexpected.

And for just that reason, valuable. This section also covers poetry in languages other than English in early America, before it proceeds to writings in English: Puritan poetry and Southern poetry up to the Revolutionary era. Their guiding light seems to be William Carlos Williams, along with Gertrude Stein, who is appended to the Williams chapter. These poets emerge as influences on poetic practices that the editors seem to favor.

The Americanness of American Poetry | VQR Online

Eliot, for example, gets a fifteen-page essay, with only one page on Four Quartets , an immensely influential poem on many poets writing after modernism, John Ashbery in particular. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.


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