TRENDS IN CONTEMPORARY BRITISH POETRY
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 in the creative material. The temptation stubbornly to assert the coherence and power of national traditions is strong not only among cultural conservatives dedicated to the perpetuation of poetic practices associated with or promoting "little-englandism" but increasingly in other, less visible communities of readers as well--and here I think especially of the small but vital communities of poets and critics dedicated to exploratory practices, where the pressures to locate indigenous varieties of Modernist and postmodernist practice are increasing. Now at this stage this would be notable that the English poetry of the present day had to come a long way before it achieved its present mould. It includes the evolution of thought process from the likes of Yeats and Eliot and on to Auden, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin and finally to the present day poets like Andrew Zawacki, Brian Patten etc.
The poetry of the present day England is one that has many voices to it. There are various ethnicities, cultures and nationalities involved in shaping the face of the contemporary British poetry. But a walk down the memory lane and we find that the early poetry of the century acted as a melting pot to shape the face of the present day trend of the poetry scene. 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...
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