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Modernist Poetry

  • Date Submitted: 05/25/2010 10:05 AM
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´╗┐Modernist poetry   topic 12
Modernist poetry is a mode of writing characterised by two main features: the first is technical innovation through the extensive use of free verse and the second a move away from the Romantic idea of an unproblematic poetic "self" directly addressing an equally unproblematic ideal reader or audience.
The questioning of the self and the exploration of technical innovations in modernist poetry are intimately interconnected. The dislocation of the authorial presence is achieved through the application of such techniques as collage, found poetry, visual poetry, the juxtaposition of apparently unconnected materials and combinations of all of these. These techniques are used not for their own sake but to open up questions in the mind of the reader regarding the nature of the poetic experience. These developments parallel changes in the other arts, especially painting and music, which were taking place concurrently.
Another important feature of much modernist poetry in English is a clear focus on the surface of the poem. Much of this focuses on the literal meaning of the words on the page rather than any metaphorical or symbolic meanings that might be imputed to them. This approach to writing is reflected in Ezra Pound's advice to young writers (in his 1937 book The ABC of Reading) to "buy a dictionary and learn the meanings of words" and T. S. Eliot's response when asked the meaning of the line "Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day" from Ash Wednesday (1930): "It means 'Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree in the cool of the day'", he replied. Also pertinent is William Carlos Williams's 1944 declaration: "A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words".
topic 5
Transcendentalism was a group of new ideas in literature, religion, culture, and philosophy that emerged in New England in the early to middle 19th century. It is sometimes called American transcendentalism to...


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