Post World War I


The American poetic movement immediately following World War I defied the elitism, mysticism and academic inclination of Eliot, Yeats and Pound. William Carlos Williams, who had known Pound as a friend, saw the man’s decline. Williams called him "an ass", and eventually Pound was driven to criminal insanity. Williams’s early poems have something in common with Joyce’s ‘epiphanies’ (see Williams’s Spring and All (1923) especially "At the Ball Game"). Later poems such as The Desert Music (1954) and Paterson (1946-58) displayed something of the everything-in policy of Modernism (see David Jones In Parenthesis (1927) for similar prose-poetry). Williams was to be the main influence of Allen Ginsberg and through him the Beat movement of the 1950s and beyond. America also had e.e. cummings, whose experiments with poems as they appear on the page were a major influence on the free verse common in the later 20th century. His poems ("verse" is often the wrong word entirely with Cummings) formed the basis of the Cubist movement of the 1950s that included Dylan Thomas and Mallarme among others and harked back to acrostics and 17th century poet George Herbert’s The Altar (a poem about an altar in the shape of an altar, no less). Cummings innovated spatially on the page with poems such as "r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r" and "the sky" to such an extent that it is unclear where one starts and finishes reading. Satirical phonetic wordplay (in "ygUDuh" especially) was well within his reach as was pure, sensual beauty ("in Just-/ spring"). There was a purposeful childish simplicity to this poetry, which strained against the excessive ‘adultness’ of European Modernism. Welshman Dylan Thomas shared this instinct and further innovated linguistically (the wonderfully inventive phrase "a grief ago" is typically impressionistic) and spatially.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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