Modernism was a complex movement, including many unique and varied features in its odd period of development in European and American writers. Broadly and retrospectively, four features were common; experimentation, anti-realism, intellectualism and individualism, although excellent Modernist poets can be found that only partly fulfil these requirements. As well as Ezra Pound many poets and other writers came to light including T.S Elliot, Joyce, Yeats, and Lawrence. Two excellent examples of Modernist poets include D.H Lawrence, with poems such as Snake and A Woman and her Dead Husband, and T.S Elliot including poems like The Hollow Men, and The Hippopotamus.
Taking Modernism's manipulation of intellectualism as the first point of investigation, a typical poem may include tentative, analytical and fragmentary work; for example posing questions with the poet's opinion on the matter rather than answering them with the accepted norm. Fragmentation also works as a rejection of Realism due to the use of a stream of consciousness style of composition;
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o' clock in the morning.
Stream of consciousness is essentially a narrative technique in which a writer presents directly the uninterrupted flow of a character's thoughts, impressions, and feelings, without the conventional devices of dialogue, punctuation and description. Leading exponents of stream of consciousness have included the novelists Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and William Faulkner. In narrative literature, Molly Bloom's soliloquy in Joyce's Ulysses is a good example of the technique.
As well as the "prickly pear" stanza, stream of consciousness is further demonstrated in The Hollow Men throughout the rest of the final verse with a severe lack of punctuation, in fact from the beginning of stanza two of verse five all the way through to the end of the poem there is not one punctuation mark!
In Snake, Lawrence creates complicated structure from the very first stanza with his fragmented use of; "and I in pyjamas for the heat". This complication adds to the intellectualism of the work, but also by making the Stanzas complicated another trait of Modernism is adhered to and once again works as a reaction against Realism. In terms of reflexivity and questioning, Snake is also a prime example with the character in the poem questioning his position in relation to the snake, and respecting the animal's power demonstrated by choosing to not get too close.
To add to complication of the structure, or at least to reject the principals of old including regular metre and rhyming couplets and so forth, was the modernist theory of 'vers libre' or 'free verse'. Essentially modernists such as John Gould Flether saw the vers libre as being aimed at;
...destroying the numerous and not uninfluential collection of pedants that still talk about the 'rules of versification,' or tell you that verbal music is impossible without a rhyme structure.
Essentially Fletcher saw vers libre as "an attempt to evade the bounds of regularity", and being a refusal of "metrical servitude". Somewhat surprisingly Elliot wrote numerous protestations towards even the existence of vers libre, even going as far as to say that "there is no freedom in art". Elliot's argument was that any verse is called 'free' by people whose ears are not accustomed to its style of structure. However, vers libre was not just about rhyme and metre but also can be related to the stream of consciousness device, due to its seemingly unrelated position when compared with the rest of the work, or traditional poetry in general.
Modernists saw previous writing as being stereotyped and inadequate. Modernist poets often include key themes in order to demonstrate this and further the experimentation of the movement's poetry. One such theme is...