Rule and Energy: Trends in British Poetry since the Second World War

Rule and Energy: Trends in British Poetry since the Second World War

Rule and Energy: Trends in British Poetry since the Second World War

Rule and Energy: Trends in British Poetry since the Second World War

Excerpt

When the University of Cincinnati honoured me with its invitation to give the George Elliston Poetry Foundation Lectures for 1962, it suggested that I should take as my theme Trends in British Poetry since the Second World War. Anybody rash enough to write about trends, movements, schools, or tendencies in poetry must run the risk of being haunted and mocked by William Empson's sardonic lines:

Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end.
Not a chance of blend, boys, things have got to tend.
Think of those who vend, boys, think of how we wend,
Waiting for the end, boys, waiting for the end.

Yet I have given this book its somewhat cumbrous sub-title in order to remind myself and my readers that the field of my survey is strictly limited. I have not considered verse written by Americans or by poets of other English-speaking lands outside Britain, and I have disregarded the work of poets who enjoyed a substantial reputation before 1939: although it is not easy to determine which poets fall into this category, I have judged that, for example, the poetry of W. H. Auden, Ronald Bottrall, Norman Cameron, Roy Campbell, C. Day Lewis, Patrick Kavanagh, Louis MacNeice, Kathleen Raine, Stephen Spender, and Dylan Thomas lies beyond the confines of this study. I have discussed only those poets who had not published a collection of poems before 1939, or who, in that year, were under the age of thirty. I am aware that I have omitted several poets who come under these headings, and who would deserve to be mentioned in any comprehensive history of the period under review.

This book was designed for an American audience: the dedication which it bears acknowledges a debt of gratitude that I constantly remember but cannot hope to repay.

J.P.

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