The New Anthology of American Poetry - Vol. 3

The New Anthology of American Poetry - Vol. 3

The New Anthology of American Poetry - Vol. 3

The New Anthology of American Poetry - Vol. 3

Synopsis

Steven Gould Axelrod, Camille Roman, and Thomas Travisano continue the standard of excellence set in Volumes I and II of this extraordinary anthology. Volume III provides the most compelling and wide-ranging selection available of American poetry from 1950 to the present. Its contents are just as diverse and multifaceted as America itself and invite readers to explore the world of poetry in the larger historical context of American culture. Nearly three hundred poems allow readers to explore canonical works by such poets as Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath, as well as song lyrics from such popular musicians as Bob Dylan and Queen Latifah. Because contemporary American culture transcends the borders of the continental United States, the anthology also includes numerous transnational poets, from Julia de Burgos to Derek Walcott. Whether they are the works of oblique avant-gardists like John Ashbery or direct, populist poets like Allen Ginsberg, all of the selections are accompanied by extensive introductions and footnotes, making the great poetry of the period fully accessible to readers for the first time.

Excerpt

Mid-Twentieth-century American poetry witnessed revolutions in form and content that were as sweeping as the modernist revolutions of the earlier twentieth century. Whereas many modernist poets had emphasized impersonality, many midcentury poets brought a seemingly autobiographical speaker into their texts. While earlier high modernist poets, such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Allen Tate, had often expressed anxiety about social change, repugnance toward mass culture, and nostalgia for an idealized past, the midcentury poets were more likely to celebrate change, to display ambivalence toward the past, and to reveal a keen fascination with mass culture. Perhaps this new generation of poets was learning to live in and resonate with the conditions of their rapidly altering universe, even though they usually confronted those conditions with complicated feelings. Their modernist predecessors continued to have an impact on the midcentury generation, whom Randall Jarrell was among the first to label “postmodernist.” But the new poets, often after serving an informal apprenticeship under one or more members of the elder generation, moved ahead on their own terms, building on their mentors’ formal experiments while transforming the sometimes conservative ethos of those older poets into something rich, unpredictable, and fresh.

Midcentury was a complicated and contradictory time. Although many Americans increased their wealth in the 1950s, the gap between rich and poor was widening, and the apparent general prosperity was interrupted and threatened by intermittent recessions. Thrilled at their triumph in World War II, and buoyed by material advances, numerous Americans experienced what one historian, William O’Neill, has called an “American high.” But this era of good feeling came at a price: social conformity, persistent racial and gender iniquities, foreign crises, an expanding “military-industrial complex” (as President Eisenhower called it), and, over all, a dread of nuclear annihilation. The 1960s ushered in a mixed period of social progress and social conflict, culminating in the Vietnam War, in which more than fifty-eight thousand Americans and many times more Vietnamese and others lost their lives.

It was a complex fate being an American poet at midcentury. Most of these poets grew increasingly wary about key elements of American domestic and . . .

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