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(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

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    North American Poetry 1945 - 2002.
  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2008/09.
  • Vyučující

    Jiří Flajšar.
  • Status

    Volitelný 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.


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