American Poetry - World War II and After

World War II and After

Archibald Macleish called John Gillespie Magee, Jr. "the first poet of the war".

World War II saw the emergence of a new generation of poets, many of whom were influenced by Wallace Stevens and Richard Eberhart (1904–2005). Karl Shapiro (1913–2000), Randall Jarrell (1914–1965) and James Dickey (1923–1997) all wrote poetry that sprang from experience of active service.Together with Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979), Theodore Roethke (1908–1963) and Delmore Schwartz (1913–1966), they formed a generation of poets that in contrast to the preceding generation often wrote in traditional verse forms.

After the war, a number of new poets and poetic movements emerged. John Berryman (1914–1972) and Robert Lowell (1917–1977) were the leading lights in what was to become known as the Confessional movement, which was to have a strong influence on later poets like Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) and Anne Sexton (1928–1974). Though both Berryman and Lowell were closely acquainted with Modernism, they were mainly interested in exploring their own experiences as subject matter and a style that Lowell referred to as "cooked" – that is, consciously and carefully crafted.

In contrast, the Beat poets, who included such figures as Jack Kerouac (1922–1969), Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), Gregory Corso (1930–2001), Joanne Kyger (born 1934), Gary Snyder (born 1930), Diane Di Prima (born 1934), Amiri Baraka (born 1934) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919), were distinctly raw.Reflecting, sometimes in an extreme form, the more open, relaxed and searching society of the 1950s and 1960s, the Beats pushed the boundaries of the American idiom in the direction of demotic speech perhaps further than any other group.

Around the same time, the Black Mountain poets, under the leadership of Charles Olson (1910–1970), were working at Black Mountain College. These poets were exploring the possibilities of open form but in a much more programmatic way than the Beats. The main poets involved were Robert Creeley (1926–2005), Robert Duncan (1919–1988), Denise Levertov (1923–1997), Ed Dorn (1929–1999), Paul Blackburn (1926–1971), Hilda Morley (1916–1998), John Wieners (1934–2002), and Larry Eigner (1927–1996). They based their approach to poetry on Olson's 1950 essay Projective Verse, in which he called for a form based on the line, a line based on human breath and a mode of writing based on perceptions juxtaposed so that one perception leads directly to another.

Other poets often associated with the Black Mountain are Cid Corman (1924–2004) and Theodore Enslin (born 1925), though they are perhaps more correctly viewed as direct descendants of the Objectivists. And one-time Black Mountain College resident, composer John Cage (1912–1992), along with Jackson Mac Low (1922–2004), wrote poetry based on chance or aleatory techniques. Inspired by Zen, Dada and scientific theories of indeterminacy, they were to prove to be important influences on the 1970s U.S avant-garde.

The Beats and some of the Black Mountain poets are often considered to have been responsible for the San Francisco Renaissance. However, as previously noted, San Francisco had become a hub of experimental activity from the 1930s thanks to Kenneth Rexroth and Gleason. Other poets involved in this scene included Charles Bukowski (1920–1994) and Jack Spicer (1925–1965). These poets sought to combine a contemporary spoken idiom with inventive formal experiment.

Jerome Rothenberg (born 1931) is well known for his work in ethnopoetics, but he was also the coiner of the term "deep image", which he used to described the work of poets like Robert Kelly (born 1935), Diane Wakoski (born 1937) and Clayton Eshleman (born 1935). Deep Image poetry was inspired by the symbolist theory of correspondences, in particular the work of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. The term was later taken up and popularized by Robert Bly. The Deep Image movement was also the most international, accompanied by a flood of new translations from Latin American and European poets such as Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo and Tomas Tranströmer. Some of the poets who became associated with Deep Image are Galway Kinnell, James Wright, Mark Strand and W. S. Merwin. Both Merwin and California poet Gary Snyder would also become known for their interest in environmental and ecological concerns.

The Small Press poets (sometimes called the mimeograph movement) are another influential and eclectic group of poets who also surfaced in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1950s and are still active today. Fiercely independent editors, who were also poets, edited and published low-budget periodicals and chapbooks of emerging poets who might otherwise have gone unnoticed. This work ranged from formal to experimental. Gene Fowler, A. D. Winans, Hugh Fox, street poet and activist Jack Hirschman, Paul Foreman, Jim Cohn, John Bennett, and F. A. Nettelbeck are among the many poets who are still actively continuing the Small Press Poets tradition. Many have turned to the new medium of the Web for its distribution capabilities.

Los Angeles poets: Leland Hickman (1934–1991), Holly Prado ( born 1938), Harry Northup (born 1940), Wanda Coleman (born 1946), Michael C. Ford (born 1939), Kate Braverman (born 1950), Eloise Klein Healy, Bill Mohr, Laurel Ann Bogen, met at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, in Venice, California. They are lyric poets, heavily autobiographical; some are practitioners of the experimental long poem. Mavericks all, their L.A. predecessors are Ann Stanford (1916–1987), Thomas McGrath (1916–1990), Jack Hirschman (born 1933). Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, created by George Drury Smith in 1968, is the central literary arts center in the Los Angeles area.

Just as the West Coast had the San Francisco Renaissance and the Small Press Movement, the East Coast produced the New York School. This group aimed to write poetry that spoke directly of everyday experience in everyday language and produced a poetry of urbane wit and elegance that contrasts with the work of their Beat contemporaries (though in other ways, including their mutual respect for American slang and disdain for academic or "cooked" poetry, they were similar). Leading members of the group include John Ashbery (born in poetry1927), Frank O'Hara (1926–1966), Kenneth Koch (1925–2002), James Schuyler (1923–1991), Barbara Guest (1920–2006), Ted Berrigan (1934–1983), Anne Waldman (born in 1945) and Bernadette Mayer (born in 1945). Of this group, John Ashbery, in particular, has emerged as a defining force in recent poetics, and he is regarded by many as the most important American poet since World War II.

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