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The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English

The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English

by Ian Hamilton

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The first and only comprehensive work of its kind, The Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English charts the development of poetry from 1900 to the present, across the whole of the English-speaking world, from the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland to New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Trinidad and Zimbabwe—anywhere where poets write in English.


The first and only comprehensive work of its kind, The Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English charts the development of poetry from 1900 to the present, across the whole of the English-speaking world, from the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland to New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Trinidad and Zimbabwe—anywhere where poets write in English. Alphabetically arranged for ease of reference, it offers biographical entries on some 1,500 individual poets, as well as over one hundred entries covering important magazines, movements, literary terms and concepts.
As readable as it is comprehensive, the Companion offers a fascinating survey of this century's shift from 'poetry' to 'poetries,' as American and British traditions of poetry have made way for a growing diversity of voices, and as the burgeoning poetries of Australia, Canada, and other English-speaking countries assert their own identities. The range of poets represented in this Companion is extraordinary. Here are in-depth discussions of Yeats, Eliot, Pound, and Joyce alongside provocative assessments of W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, and Marianne Moore. John Ashbery, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, and Mary Oliver are accounted for, as well as Carolyn Forché, David Bottoms, Jorie Graham, and many other younger poets just coming into prominence. Chinua Achebee, Jack Mapanje, Femi Oyebode and other important African poets writing in English are here, as well as poets from the Caribbean, India, and even Russia.
Readers will relish this Companion's many insightful contributions from celebrated poet-critics, writing on other poets in intriguing author-subject combinations. For example, Seamus Heaney writes on Robert Lowell ("Lowell had invented a way of getting at life, of making poetry kick and freak at the edge of contemporary reality"), Ann Stevenson discusses Sylvia Plath ("In the quarter-century following her suicide, Sylvia Plath has become a heroine and martyr of the feminist movement. In fact, she was a martyr mainly to the recurrent psychodrama that staged itself within the bell jar of her tragically wounded personality"), and Tom Paulin weighs in on Ted Hughes ("His appointment as Poet Laureate in 1984 sealed his essentially shaman-like conception of his poetic mission and enabled him to speak out on environmental issues while celebrating royal weddings and babies"). Other pairings include Jay Parini on Wallace Stevens, Jon Stallworthy on Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brook, and William H. Pritchard on Robert Frost and Randall Jarrell. Each entry includes a wealth of biographical and bibliographical information, and a select bibliography at the end of the book supplies a handy source of information on poets whose work is not otherwise in print, or readily available to readers.
From Abse and Auden to Zaturenska and Zukofsky, The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English is an essential reference for students, lovers of poetry, and for poets themselves.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
More accurately described as a companion to poets than a companion to poetry- though it does include such entries as ``deep image,'' ``Georgian poetry,'' and ``The Hudson Review''-this reference focuses on some 1500 20th-century poets from all around the world who write in English. Edited by poet/biographer Hamilton, the work offers signed entries by poet-critics, including brief biographical sketches, overviews of themes, commentaries on style, general critical evaluations, and brief primary and secondary bibliographies. The articles are objective yet sympathetic to each poet's intent, with no particular critical perspective obscuring the issue. This companion has twice the number of entries as Contemporary Poets (St. James, 1991. 5th ed.) but provides less information, far fewer quotations, and shorter bibliographies. Both works are excellent, and both belong in libraries with comprehensive poetry collections. Other libraries may have to decide whether scope or depth is more important.-Peter Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., Mich.
School Library Journal
YA-A standard reference work that will be useful for YAs who are interested in a brief biographical background and a broad-brush critical approach. Despite its title, this volume only covers English-language poets, but is extremely inclusive within those limits.
Zom Zoms
The old business adage that no one ever got fired for buying an IBM could well be applied by reference librarians to the "Oxford Companion" series. The series' consistent high quality at reasonable prices makes the purchase of almost any title one of the safest selections in reference This tradition continues with the latest entrant in the series, "The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English" ("OCTCP"). Described in the introduction "both as a reference work and as a history, a map of modern poetry in English," it covers some 1,500 poets. The majority come from the U.S. and England, although Australia, Canada, Africa, Asia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean are represented as well. Editor Hamilton--himself a poet and a biographer of poets--gathered a formidable team of more than 225 contributors to write entries that range anywhere from about a column in length to more than three pages (T. S. Eliot, William Yeats). Many of the contributors are well-known poets in their own right, so contributors such as Seamus Heaney, Carol Rumens, Martin Seymour-Smith, and Anne Stevenson are themselves the subjects of entries After Hamilton's introduction--a somewhat meditative piece on the changing currents of twentieth-century poetry--the volume opens with a list of anthologies of poetry and a key to the abbreviations used for contributors. The rest of the work is an "A" to "Z" listing of poets, famous poetry journals ("Hudson Review, The"), movements ("Agrarianism"), concepts ("Native American Poetry", "Translation"), and critical terms ("Feminist Criticism", "New Criticism, The"). Any bibliographies are integrated within the essays themselves and are typically listings of famous works by the poet as well as the occasional critical work Since the poet need only "have lived in the twentieth century, if only for a month or so," entries include poets that one might not necessarily associate with this century, such as Stephen Crane, Thomas Hardy, and Rudyard Kipling. Entries always include birth and (when applicable) death dates of the poet, basic biographical information, and a general appraisal of the poet's output Hamilton notes that he could think of no other volume covering 1900 to the present that includes not only poets, but also topical entries. His assertion is correct. The major competitor to this work so far as biographical information is concerned is the $125 "Contemporary Poets" (St. James, 1991), which features more extensive bibliographies and generally longer essays. A sampling revealed that only about 30 percent of the poets in the present volume have entries in "Contemporary Poets", a volume that does not include deceased poets. About 75 percent of the poets in "OCTCP" have entries in Gale's "Contemporary Authors" At $35, "OCTCP" is an exceptional purchase and is recommended for any size public or academic library.
From the Publisher
"Indispensable."—The Herald (South Carolina)

"Reference works with "Oxford Companion" in the title commonly become standards, and this magisterial work is certain to achieve that status....Invaluable."—Choice

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Oxford Companions Series
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.67(d)

Meet the Author

The author of several books of poetry, Ian Hamilton is also a well-known biographer whose subjects have included Robert Lowell and J. D. Salinger. Keepers of the Flame, a collection of his literary criticism, was published in 1992.

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