A History of Modern Poetry, Volume II: Modernism and After / Edition 1

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Overview

There have been many books on early modernist poetry, not so many on its various sequels, and still fewer on the currents and cross-currents of poetry since World War II. Until now there has been no single comprehensive history of British and American poetry throughout the half century from the mid-1920s to the recent past. This David Perkins is uniquely equipped to provide; only a critic as well informed as he in the whole range of twentieth-century poetry could offer a lucid, coherent, and structured account of so diverse a body of work.

Perkins devotes major discussions to the later careers of the first Modernist poets, such as Eliot, Pound, Stevens, and Williams, and to their immediate followers in the United States, E. E. Cummings, Archibald MacLeish, and Hart Crane; to W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and the period style of the 1930s; to the emergence of the New Criticism and of a poetry reflecting its tenets in William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, John Berryman, and Robert Lowell, and to the reaction against this style; to postwar Great Britain from Philip Larkin and the "Movement" in the 1950s to Ted Hughes, Charles Tomlinson, and Geoffrey Hill; to the theory and style of "open form" in Charles Olson and Robert Duncan; to Allen Ginsberg and the Beat poetry of the 1960s; to the poetry of women's experience in Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich; to the work of Black poets from Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks to Amiri Baraka; and to Elizabeth Bishop, W. S. Merwin, A. R. Ammons, John Ashbery, and James Merrill.

Perkins discusses some 160 poets, mentioning many others more briefly, and does not hesitate to explain, to criticize, to admire, to render judgments. He clarifies the complex interrelations of individuals, groups, and movements and the contexts in which the poets worked: not only the predecessors and contemporaries they responded to but the journals that published them, the expectations of the audience, changing premises about poetry, the writings of critics, developments in other arts, and the momentous events of political and social history. Readers seeking guidance through the maze of postwar poetry will find the second half of the book especially illuminating.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
This is clearly the most important history of 20th-century poetry to appear. It is difficult to imagine a better book. Perkins's work will surely be the standard history by which all future assessments will have to be judged.
World Literature Today

The author moves deftly between text and context, offering both panorama and portrait, and the dimensions of his extremely rich study can only be suggested here...It is amazing to observe the freshness and sensitivity with which Perkins approaches each poet...His opinions are strong and expressed with authority yet modesty...A landmark study.
— Beth Bjorklund

The Nation

[Perkins] is generous, sympathetic, sensitive, inquisitive, and has a goodly streak of common sense. These are the virtues one hopes for in a literary historian...Clearly Perkins has a talent for getting under the skins of different styles and into the heads of people who lived in the recent past.
— Stuart Klawans

London Review of Books

The scope of...inclusion is certainly impressive, with attention given to black and woman writers and to a broader range of British writing than might have been expected from an American critic: there can be few readers who will not find ways into new poetic territory from this enthusiastically written book.
— David Norbrook

New York Review of Books

We must be grateful to [Perkins] for this strong first volume of a two-volume study that, when completed, will be the only one of its kind, and should prove itself indispensable.
— Richard Ellmann

World Literature Today - Beth Bjorklund
The author moves deftly between text and context, offering both panorama and portrait, and the dimensions of his extremely rich study can only be suggested here...It is amazing to observe the freshness and sensitivity with which Perkins approaches each poet...His opinions are strong and expressed with authority yet modesty...A landmark study.
The Nation - Stuart Klawans
[Perkins] is generous, sympathetic, sensitive, inquisitive, and has a goodly streak of common sense. These are the virtues one hopes for in a literary historian...Clearly Perkins has a talent for getting under the skins of different styles and into the heads of people who lived in the recent past.
London Review of Books - David Norbrook
The scope of...inclusion is certainly impressive, with attention given to black and woman writers and to a broader range of British writing than might have been expected from an American critic: there can be few readers who will not find ways into new poetic territory from this enthusiastically written book.
New York Review of Books - Richard Ellmann
We must be grateful to [Perkins] for this strong first volume of a two-volume study that, when completed, will be the only one of its kind, and should prove itself indispensable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674399471
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1989
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 712
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 1.96 (d)

Meet the Author

David Perkins is John P. Marquand Professor of English Literature, Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

PART ONE. THE AGE OF HIGH MODERNISM

1 The Ascendancy of T. S. Eliot, 1925-1950

2 Eliot's Later Career

"The Hollow Men" and Ash Wednesday. Four Quartets.

3 Modes of Modern Style in the United States

E. E. Cummings. Archibald MacLeish. Robinson Jeffers.

4 Hart Crane

"A Plate of Vibrant Mercury." The Bridge.
5 The Poetry of Critical Intelligence

Sources and History of the Style. Metaphysical Wit. Samples of the Style. Laura Riding. Robert Graves. William Empson. John Crowe Ransom. Allen Tate. Yvor Winters.

6 The Period Style of the 1930s in England

The Impact of Auden. Coming after the Modernists. Poetry as Thinking and Talking. The English Tradition. Freud, Marx, and Lawrence. Politics and Romantic Convention. Day-Lewis, MacNeice, and Spender.

7 W. H. Auden

Auden in the 1930s. Long Poems of the 1940s. Poetry as Conversation. The Later Auden.

8 The English Romantic Revival, 1934-1945

The Beginnings of the Romantic Revival: Dylan Thomas, David Gascoyne, and George Barker. Edwin Muir. The War Years.

PART TWO. THE RESURGENCE OF POUND, WILLIAMS, AND STEVENS

9 Reappraising the Modernists

10 Ezra Pound: The Cantos

Components of the Texture. Ideograms. Incremental Repetition. Major Form. The Pisan Cantos. Paradiso.

11 The Impact of William Carlos Williams

The Williams Lyric. The Theory of the Poem. Paterson and the Last Poems.

12 The Later Poetry of Wallace Stevens

Harmonium. "Winter Devising Summer in Its Breast." The Theory of Poetry Is the Theory of Life." The Myth of a Sufficing Naturalism. The Major Poetry of the Final Phase.

13 Other Modernist Poets

David Jones. Basil Bunting. David Ignatow. Louis Zukofsky and the Objectivists.

PART THREE. POSTMODERNISM

14 The Postwar Period: Introduction

The Concept of a Period Style. Poetry in the United States. The Development of Contemporary Poetry.

15 Robert Penn Warren, Theodore Roethke, and Elizabeth Bishop

Robert Penn Warren. Minor American Poets and the Return of Romantic Values. Theodore Roethke. Elizabeth Bishop.

16 Breaking Through the New Criticism

Richard Wilbur. Randall Jarrell. John Berryman. Homage to Mistress Bradstreet. The Dream Songs.

17 Robert Lowell

Style as "Hardship." Life Studies. Lowell's Later Career.

18 In and Out of the Movement: The Generation of the 1950s in England

The Movement. The Style of the 1950s. Orientations to an Audience. Roy Fuller, C. H. Sisson, and R. S. Thomas. Larkin and His Contemporaries.

19 English Poetry in the 1960s and 1970s

Charles Tomlinson. Ted Hughes. Geoffrey Hill. Thom Gunn.

20 The Poetry of Ireland

Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh. Thomas Kinsella. John Montague and Michael Longley. Seamus Heaney.

21 Open Form

Derivation from Pound and Williams. The Theory of Open Form. Syntax as Kinesis. Charles Olson. Robert Creeley. Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and Paul Blackburn. Robert Duncan.

22 Poetry in New York and San Francisco

Frank O'Hara and the 'New York School." Minor Poets of San Francisco. The Countercultural Ethos. Allen Ginsberg.

23 Against "Civilization"

A Shared Style. A Modal Poem. Robert Bly. James Wright. Galway Kinnell. W. S. Merwin. Gary Snyder.

24 Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich

Sylvia Plath. Anne Sexton. Adrienne Rich.

25 Black Poets of America

Melvin Tolson. Robert Hayden. Gwendolyn Brooks. Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones).

26 Meditations of the Solitary Mind: John Ashbery and A. R. Ammons

John Ashbery. The Nature of the Real. Unsaying What You Say While You Are Saying It. Reading Ashbery. A. R. Ammons.

27 The Achievement of James Merrill

The Changing Light at Sandover. Merrill's Trilogy in Literary History. Readers versus the Ouija Board. 'The Book of Ephraim." Mirabell and Scripts for the Pageant.

Acknowledgments

Index

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