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Poetry-III – Assignment.
Name: Aleena Farooq.
Roll no. 07.
B.S. English – (6th Semester.)
Topic: History of Modern Poetry.
Introduction to Modernism:
Modernism is a comprehensive movement which began in the closing years of the 19th
century and has had a wide influence internationally during much of the 20th century.
It reveals breaking away from established rules, traditions and conventions, fresh ways of
looking at man’s position and function in the universe and many experiments in form and
It is particularly concerned with language and how to use it.
It is a style or movement in the arts that aims to break with classical and traditional forms.
Embracing change and present, modernism encompasses the works of thinkers who rebelled
against nineteenth century academic traditions
Believing the "traditional" forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social
organization and daily life were becoming outdated.
They directly confronted the new economic, social and political aspects of an emerging fully
Rebelled against Victorian artificialities, moral bankruptcy and historicist traditions.
Encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence (e.g. commerce/philosophy)
Background of Modern Poetry:
After 1900 the English scene becomes terribly chaotic. In the field of poetry-as also in other
fields of literature-we find a tremendous activity.
We find a lot of experimentation and innovation in modern poetry. Most of the poets have
broken away from tradition completely, as they feel that poetry should change with the
changing times. Modern poetry exercises a great freedom in the choice of themes.
The two wars and impending danger of a third have cast a gloomy shadow on much of the
poetry of the twentieth century.
The modern age been called "the age of anxiety." In spite of material prosperity poets were
full of tensions and anxieties which are almost an inseparable feature of modern living.
Add to them the disappearance of religious faith and disillusionment is natural in modern
Features of Modern Poetry:-
Traditional "poetic diction" and even regular meter have been discarded almost completely.
Though rhyme has almost gone, rhythm freed from the artificial demands of metrical
regularity is still used.
A language with the flow and turns of common speech is mostly employed.
Free verse is the most usual mode of all serious poetry of today.
In the twentieth century many experiments have been made on the technique and diction of
Juxtaposition of ideas
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Use of intertextuality.
Use of allusions and multiple association of words
Borrowings from other cultures.
Unconventional use of metaphors.
Massive use of alliteration and assonance.
Use of visual images in distinct lines.
Trends in Modern Poetry:
The Decline: Tradition and Innovation :
Many have sincerely felt that in the twentieth century no great poetry was written and none is
being written now. As a critic has put it, there have been many poetic persons in the twentieth
century, but no poets. It is said that as civilization advances poetry declines. Poetry indeed has
declined, though it is somewhat debatable if civilization has advanced. At the beginning of the
new century at least, there was no poet of any stature.
Modern poetry exercises a great freedom in the choice of themes. Gone are days when it was
believed that the job of the poet was only to create "beauty." T. S. Eliot offers a representative
view. He is free to write poems on themes ranging from the cosmos to a pin's head. Some poems
have been written on pretty unpromising subjects which are peculiar to our machine age.
This thematic revolution is indicative of the unflinching realism of the poets of the twentieth
century. The searching realism of modern poets often brings them face to face with repulsive
facts which would have scandalized a goody-goody Victorian. But our poets handle them most
daringly. Prostitution, war, slum-dwellers, and other such "unpoetic" themes find adequate
treatment in modern poetry. Our century has witnessed two terrible holocausts in the two global
wars. The terror, ugliness, and brutality of war became a major theme in the poetry of "the war
poets" like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen who themselves fought as soldiers. Bitter satire
permeates the former's poems like "Counter-Attack" ("set out to present in brutal verse the
realities of war without gloss or evasion") and "Suicide in Trenches." Some war poets, such as
Rupert Brooke, however, seem to have loved war as a test of their valiance and patriotism, and
they treated it in their poetry accordingly.
The pessimism of twentieth-century poets is-not of the nature-of the somewhat stylized
melancholy of Shelley or what David Daiches describes as "the Tennysonian elegiac mode with
its lingering enjoyment of self-pity." It is more intellectual and more impersonal.
This pessimistic realization of sad realities of life is partly responsible for the note of fellow-
feeling and humanitarianism which is to be heard in the work of some modern poets. The
realization of human suffering spurs them to align themselves with the suffering. The twentieth-
century poets like Galsworthy, Gibson, and Masefield also voiced their indignation against social
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In their consideration for the working classes, some modern English poets have gone over to
the side of radical socialism, and even communism.
Such prosaic social concern is basically cold to all romantic tendencies. Most modern poets,
as we have said earlier, scorn all romanticism-even the subdued kind of romanticism as in
Tennyson. Others have also freely tilted against the traditional romanticism. Still, a few modern
poets manifest unmistakable romantic tendencies. Among these poets may be mentioned W. B.
Yeats, John Masefield and Edward Thomas. Yeats' imagery is often redolent of mythical
Another "romantic tendency to be found in some modern poets is interest in nature. Nature
fascinates some poets because she offers such a wonderful contrast with the hubbub and ugliness
of an industrialized and over-sophisticated age. Such poets as Masefield, Robert Bridges, W. E.
Davies, and Edmund Blunden may not find any mystic significance in nature, but they are, all
the same, charmed by her unsophisticated beauty.
Religion and Mysticism:
Religion and mysticism also find a place in the work of some poets of the twentieth century.
Coventry Patmore and Francis Thompson, who wrote religious poetry towards the end of the
preceding century, seem to have inspired a number of poets in this century. In the poetry of the
Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins we have something religious now and then. Ralph Hodgson's The
Song of Honour is a notable poem pulsating with religious feelings. Even in the poetry of such
poets as Yeats there are mystical strains.
Complexity and Psychological Profundity:
Complexity and psychological profundity are some other qualities of the more representative
poetry of today. The reaction against the earlier naiveté of poetry was initiated by Eliot and Ezra
Pound in the second decade of the present century. The publication of Hopkins's work in 1918
was also a force in the new direction. Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and Hilda Doolittle were the
pioneers of Imagism in poetry. Visual images before they were matured by intellect were sought
to be expressed by them without any respect for conventional phraseology. Many of the major
poets of the century have shown the influence of the Imagist doctrines in their work.
Diction and Meter:
This movement has also revolutionized the concept of poetic diction and meter.
Traditional "poetic diction" and even regular meter have been discarded almost completely. A
language with the flow and turns of common speech is mostly employed. Verse libre (free verse)
is the most usual mode of all serious poetry of today.
Death of Truth:
The New Criticism ushered in by Pound and Eliot, finding in the admired poetry of the past
so much that was no longer true, declared that truth was not to be looked for in poetry. All that
mattered were the words on the page, and the ingenious skill with which they deployed. The
experience of historians was set aside, as was indeed that of readers of historical romances, both
of whom can remain happily suspended between the past and present. What the New Critics
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wanted were the unchanging laws of science, and they adopted a language of tensions and
psychology without understanding the issues involved.
Poet as Social Outcast:
Few of the accomplished poets of the nineteenth century worked with the political and social
concerns of the day, and their influence waned as the public turned to those who did: journalists,
social commentators and reformers. Rather than accept that poetry had a duty to more fully and
significantly represent what is most human in us, and so return to the public arena, the later
nineteenth-century poets contended that poetry was not language used to its fullest extent, but an
altogether different way of using language.
Refuge in the Irrational:
Naturally, as they turned from the public to the private sphere, poets encountered the inner
doubts and confusions known to writers from antiquity, but which had recently been organized
into theories by Sigmund Freud. They did not wish to know how bogus, trivializing and
ineffective was psychoanalysis in practice, but only that it opened doors to vivid expression.
Everything was permitted if words were cover for unedifying desires, and a profusion of sects
and movements sprang up: Imagism, Crane’s symbolism, Pound’s ideograms, Surrealism and the
Deep Image School, Dadaism, Thomas’s Welsh rhetoric, Romantic revivals in America and
England, confessional poetry and poetry that spoke to ethnic and socially disadvantaged groups.
Rejection of the Past:
No doubt the new approaches challenged what poetry had once been, but the new
practitioners rewrote history. Poetry had always been contemporary, they argued, which now
meant being direct, personal and American. Great poetry had in fact been more than that, but the
supporters of popular Modernism—William Carlos Williams, the Black Mountain School, Beat
Poets and the San Franciscans—had answers ready. Poetry must be unmediated if sincere, and
the techniques of verse were a handicap to expression. They remembered Pound’s “make it
new”, and asserted that a more democratic age must have a more democratic poetry. Theoretical
scaffolding became a necessary part of contemporary poetry, the more so as the floodgates were
soon to be opened in schools and writing classes throughout the country.
Famous Modern Poets:-
William Butler Yeats.
D. H. Lawrence.