Modernist poetry arose in response to the flowery language typical of Victorian and Romantic literature. They emulated the style of earlier period writers like the Ancient Greek lyric poet, Sappho and the Italian poet, Dante.
Modernist poetry is
Often a comment on society. Of interest is Eliot's The Waste Land as its fragmented structure can be seen as an analogy to post WWI's societal confusion.
Poetry that inherently questions the nature of the experience between the reader and poem.
Experimentation with words and structure; an upheaval of traditional literary styles.
Traits of Modernist Poetry
Literal meaning of words
A pleasant sound to the listener
Words only serve the purpose of the poem
The use of 'word collages', particularly prominent after Eliot's The Waste Land . A meaning becomes evident from the dislocated words.
Contributions to Wider Literature
The popularization of an economical and matter-of-fact writing style made famous by the author, Ernest Hemingway.
Beginning in the 1890s, the wildfire adoption of the defining qualities of Modernist poetry to art, music and literature.
“ The term modernism refers to the radical shift in aesthetic and cultural sensibilities evident in the art and literature of the post-World War One period. The ordered, stable and inherently meaningful world view of the nineteenth century could not, wrote T.S. Eliot, accord with ‘the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.’.. rejecting nineteenth-century optimism, [modernists] presented a profoundly pessimistic picture of a culture in disarray.”
What Was Happening? Late 19 th , early 20 th century
In 1889 the first Otis elevator is installed in the Demarest building in NYC
In 1895 the Duryea brothers make and market the first practical American automobile
Wars like WWI and WWII reshape the world, changing the very nature of humanity.
Wars bring about losses in human life, as of yet never before seen, but also bring about
Huge advancements in technology in the areas of communication, production, and transportation
Industrialization creates large urban centers, changing how many people around the world live and view the world
World War One
Modernist writers like Aldington ended up fighting
Trench warfare was a new phenomenon and affected the psyche of many poets
Famous poems such as Homage to Sextus Propertius (which ridiculed war time propaganda) were direct results of the war
Arguably the most famous English-language poem to emerge from World War One was T.S. Elliot’s The Waste Land
The Waste Land (excerpt)
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet,
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying, "Stetson!