Contemporary British Poetry: Essays in Theory and Criticism

By James Acheson; Romana Huk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Poetry and the
Women's Movement
in Postwar Britain

Claire Buck


Feminist Poetry in Postwar Britain

In his 1962 anthology of contemporary British poetry, The New Poetry, A. Alvarez claimed to be "simply attempting to give my idea of what, that really matters, has happened to poetry in England during the last decade."1 What really mattered, in Alvarez's view, had nothing to do with women poets.The anthology was all male. In 1966, his revised edition included Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton under the American section, which offered his model of a desirable direction for poetry to take in Britain; it was, in his description, "poetry of immense skill and intelligence which coped openly with the quick of [the poets'] experience, experience sometimes on the edge of disintegration and breakdown." 2 Still no British women poets were included.It was, in fact, to be thirteen years before the publication of Lilian Mohin's One Foot on the Mountain: An Anthology of British Feminist Poetry, 1969-1979 was to assert the place of women poets as women in British postwar culture. 3 Two significant anthologies, Cora Kaplan's Salt and Bitter and Good: Three Centuries of English and American Women Poets ( 1975) and The Penguin Book of Women Poets ( 1978), had paved the way for Mohin by highlighting the systematic exclusion of women poets from literary history. 4 But neither of these anthologies included much contemporary poetry or focused substantially on British poetry.

Mohin's groundbreaking anthology was followed by a spate of anthologies, such as the Virago anthology Bread and Roses: Women's Poetry of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, edited by Diana Scott ( 1982)

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