Modern Poetry after Modernism

Modern Poetry after Modernism

Modern Poetry after Modernism

Modern Poetry after Modernism

Synopsis

In this book, James Longenbach develops a fresh approach to major American poetry after modernism. Rethinking the influential "breakthrough" narrative, the oft-told story of postmodern poets throwing off their modernist shackles in the 1950s, Longenbach offers a more nuanced perspective. Reading a diverse range of poets--John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Amy Clampitt, Jorie Graham, Richard Howard, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Robert Pinsky, and Richard Wilbur--Longenbach reveals that American poets since mid- century have not so much disowned their modernist past as extended elements of modernism that other readers have suppressed or neglected to see. In the process, Longenbach allows readers to experience the wide variety of poetries written in our time-- without asking us to choose between them.

Excerpt

This book was prompted by my sense that the stories we usually tell about American poetry cannot account for Elizabeth Bishop's career; it grew from my realization that those stories (usually turning on some sense of formal "breakthrough") cannot make good sense of most of Bishop's contemporaries. Like every poet of her generation, Bishop was keenly aware of what was at stake in writing after modernism; but she did not reduce the modern poets' various and contradictory qualities into an easily opposed program. Her career consequently exhibits no "breakthrough" but extends aspects of modernism that other writers suppressed or neglected to see. The poets I've associated with Bishop share her open relationship to their immediate past. They also share her attitude toward poetic form: whether it's called formal or free, open or closed, form is for these poets what constitutes their utterance, not something that needs to be (or could be) broken through.

Whatever their similarities, these poets are also highly idiosyncratic. Each chapter of this book (except for the first) is shaped in response to the distinctive problems of a particular poet's career. And while the chapters are linked by common concerns, anyone wanting to read only about Wilbur or Ashbery will find my treatments of them pretty much . . .

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