Broken English/Breaking English: A Study of Contemporary Poetries in English

Broken English/Breaking English: A Study of Contemporary Poetries in English

Broken English/Breaking English: A Study of Contemporary Poetries in English

Broken English/Breaking English: A Study of Contemporary Poetries in English

Synopsis

Jackaman (English, U. of Canterbury, New Zealand) examines the work of a number of contemporary poets writing in English. Centering around the theme of "breaking" English, the study looks at how formerly marginalized forms of the language have challenged the idea of a single, uniform, "pure" English. Examples are drawn from a number of sources, including women's poetry, West Indian-British poetry, Australian poetry, and the work of rural English poets. Distributed by Associated University Presses. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Excerpt

If my initial theme of purity seems OLD-FASHIONED, perhaps IT's to some degree the responsibility of Donald Davie—not to mention my late mother! Growing up in immediately post-Second-World-War England, I remember that my mother favored a particular type of sausage which was marketed under the name of “Purity Brand.” I mention this eminendy nonliterary fact not merely as an early excursion into irrelevant autobiography, but because at about the same moment (the early 1950s), a literary study appeared whose primary marketing strategy was remarkably similar to that of the aforementioned forcemeat artifact—the appeal in a dingy postwar world of the notion of purity. the study in question is, of course, Donald Davie's Purity of Diction in English Verse (1952).

It's not my current intention (though it may later turn out to be so) to draw disparaging analogies between the poetry of that time (which came to be identified with a pressure group known as “The Movement”) and sausages (the homogeneous filling, just enough to fill out the product, though almost without flavour of any kind; the barely adequate skin, colorless and virtually transparent; the ease of handling and consumption, yet concomitant lack of nourishment and sustenance). Rather, I wish to draw attention to Davie's use of the word (and concept) “Purity” as a promotional device.

As any recent literary critic will tell us, the idea of purity is significandy predicated on its opposite, its “other” or its absence: impurity. An awareness of this situation (though many years before the new wave of literary commentators theorized it) presumably accounts to some degree for Davie's concern in the early 1950s to persuade his . . .

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