(1.3) Transitional Poets of 1950s and 1960s
Adrienne Rich (b. 1929)
- began with writing personal poetry
- in her early stage a conservative formalist poet
- wrote in the tradition of John Donne, W. B. Yeats, and Robert Frost
- later shifted to social and political poetry and feminist activism
- gave up traditional forms in favour of open free verse
- started writing on women, racism, lesbian sexuality etc.
> "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" (A Change of World, 1951):
- an early formalist poem from her first collection
- the aunt cannot fix the pattern of tigers in her knitting because of the burden of her marriage
- despite her oppression, the aunt creates a pattern of wild tigers
- anticipates her later preoccupation with feminist themes and her awareness of the tension between the sexes
> "Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law" (Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law, 1963):
- an open-form poem with many transitions, also formally divided into several sections
- a classic of early feminist poetry, a ground breaking poem on the experience of women trying to live independent lives
- a portrayal of the 1950s upper-class woman who gives up her own life after her marriage in favour of the service to the husband and the household
> "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning":
- takes the title from a poem by J. Donne, but undermines Donne's original
- portrays a breakdown of communication in a relationship
> "Diving into the Wreck" (Diving into the Wreck, 1973)
- describes both physical diving into the sea and descent into the depths of her own soul to her roots and origins
- assumes the identity of more selves, unifies the male and female elements in diving ("merman" and "mermaids")
James Wright (1927 - 1980)
- came from the Mid-West, his poetry celebrated working class
- started as a formalist poet, wrote in the neoclassical and romantic tradition of the English 18th and 19th century poets
- later turned to writing poetry more in touch with his own time, using a direct, down-to-earth language, and personal tone
- a poet of pastoral America, preoccupied with nature, wrote country or small-town poems
- later started writing condensed philosophical and meditative prose poems
- exploits the device of epiphany in surprising, sometimes shocking conclusions
- even later wrote deep-image poems, e.g. "The Jewel"
> "A Fit against the Country":
- an early formalist poem, published in about the same time as Gary Snyder's "Riprap"
> "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" (The Branch Will Not Break, 1963):
- a pastoral country poem, ending with the unexpected revelation "I have wasted my life"
> "A Blessing":
- a pastoral poem juxtaposing physical closeness and loneliness, which is the main theme in many of his poems
- personifies ponies as lovers, emphasizes their love but also their loneliness
- in a sentimental but balanced tone, does not expose fake emotions in improper language
- concludes with the epiphany of breaking "into blossom", a surprising ending out of proportion with what comes before
> "Honey" and "Time":
- prose poems, on the surface may resemble miniature short stories
- their language, repetitions, philosophy, and meditation makes them poetry rather than prose
- line breaks are irrelevant with prose poems, it makes no distinction with which word the line ends
- prose poems are very popular for young poets since 1970s, as some of them fail to master more rigid poetic forms
Philip Levine (b. 1928)
- of Jewish origin, like A. Ginsberg a practitioner of Jewish-American poetry
- started writing formalist poetry in 1950s, but did not master the form, so turned to free verse later
- the poet laureate of the losers, failures, and underprivileged working-class characters
- very energetic about life in general, frequently expresses anger, uses colloquial and sometimes offensive language
> "On the Edge" (On the Edge, 1963):
- in form relatively conventional, uses rhyme, metre, stanza pattern, but radical in content
- manifests his penchant for using the names of famous people (here Edgar Poe) for ordinary working-class characters
- may be seen as a semi-autobiographical poem (himself born in the given year of 1928 in Detroit, Michigan)
- addresses "you", the mainstream conventional Americans with conservative lives and tastes
> "Animals Are Passing From Our Lives" (Not This Pig, 1968):
- a syllabic poem, the number of the syllables regardless of their being stressed or unstressed counts
- assumes the voice of a pig about to be slaughtered and processed for meat
- comments on America, exposes the phenomena in American culture that the consumer society does not want to see
- rebels against conventions, here against the discovering of a TV and being happy about it ("shit like a new housewife")
- concludes with "not this pig", probably to suggest that this is primarily not a poem about a pig, but rather a fable
> "They Feed They Lion" (They Feed They Lion, 1972):
- in free verse, with many anaphoric repetitions, the language tries to approximate black English
- a driving-car poem, i.e. a poem whose speaker observes the scenes from a car
- inspired by the late 1960s to early 1970s interracial riots bursting in the streets
- describes the lion as an animal that grows larger and larger until finally the lion comes and relieves the energy accumulated throughout the whole poem
> "One for the Rose" (One for the Rose, 1981):
- reflects the American urban development: original older buildings are often pulled down to give way to new highways, parking lots, and department stores
- the speaker recalls the time of almost three decades before, describes his taking a bus (only very poor Americans who cannot afford cars ever take buses), his subsequent life as a beggar and thief, and concludes with asserting his failure
- Levine is a very un-American poet in admitting that even Americans may fail in life and that small towns (here especially small and isolated towns in Ohio) may drive its inhabitants mad
PředmětNorth American Poetry 1945 - 2002.
SemestrZimní semestr 2008/09.
StatusVolitelný seminář pro III. blok.
Flajšar, Jiří. Dějiny americké poezie. Ústí nad Orlicí: Oftis, 2006.
Jařab, Josef. American Poetry and Poets of Four Centuries. Praha: SPN, 1989.
Jařab, Josef, ed. Dítě na skleníku. Praha: Odeon, 1989.