Modern poetry
and free verse
Performer - Culture & Literature
Marina Spiazzi, Marina Tavella,
Margaret Layton © 2013
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
1. Tradition and experimentation
The first decades of the 20th
century  a period
of extraordinary originality and
vitality in poetry.
A variety of trends and currents
expressed the nature
of modern experience:
• The Georgian Poets
• The War Poets
• Imagist Poets
• Symbolist Poets
Performer - Culture & Literature
Karl Moll, ‘Twilight’, ca 1900. Osterreisches
Gallery, Belvedere (Vienna).
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
2. The Georgian Poets
The Georgian poets  influenced by the Victorian Romantic
tradition. They were Rupert Brooke (1887–1915), Walter de la Mare
(1873–1956), and Edward Thomas (1878–1917). They:
•employed the conventions of diction;
•felt sympathy for English elements, such as the countryside
as an idyllic place;
•remained indifferent or hostile to the revolution in sensibility
and technique started by the Symbolists.
Rupert Brooke
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Walter de la Mare
Edward Thomas
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
3. The War Poets
The War Poets:
• experienced the fighting
• in most cases lost their lives in the conflict
Content of their poetry  the horrors of modern warfare
represented in an unconventional, anti-rhetorical way
Aim of their poetry  to awaken the conscience of the
readers to the horrors of the war
Language employed  violent, everyday
Their poetry  a definite move away from the 19th-century
poetic conventions.
Performer - Culture & Literature
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
4. Imagist Poets
Modern poetry officially began with Imagism, a
movement which flourished between 1912 and 1917.
The name ‘Imagiste’  invented by the American poet
Ezra Pound (1885–1972).
Performer - Culture & Literature
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
4. Imagist Poets
The main aesthetic principles of Imagist poets were
•constant use of hard, clear and precise images
•use of a rhythm freed from the artificial demands of
metrical regularity
•choice of any subject matter
•poems, usually short, were the poet’s response to
a scene or object, and contained no moral comment;
•the aim of poetry: to achieve precision,
discipline, dry hardness.
Performer - Culture & Literature
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
5. Symbolist Poets
Symbolism  a movement started in
France with Charles Baudelaire’s Les
Fleurs du Mal (1857). It influenced the
new poetry.
The style of the Symbolist poets was
characterised by:
•indirect rather than direct
statements
•the use of allusive language and of
the multiple association of words.
Performer - Culture & Literature
Les Fleurs du Mal,
first edition, 1858
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
5. Symbolist Poets
The style of the Symbolist poets was characterised by:
•the importance given to the ‘sound’ of words
•the use of quotations from other literatures,
revealing cosmopolitan interests
•the use of free verse
•the possibility for the reader to bring meaning to the
poem
Performer - Culture & Literature
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
6. Symbolist Poets and T. S. Eliot
It was T.S. Eliot who developed the new poetic theory and
practice. In his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent
(1917), he stated that
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion but an
escape from emotion; it is not the expression of
personality but an escape from personality
Performer - Culture & Literature
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
6. Symbolist Poets and T. S. Eliot
According to T.S. Eliot the poet
was the explorer of
experience.
used language to
create rich patterns of
meaning that were not
easy for the superficial
reader.
recorded the collapse of Western civilisation and
the culture and spiritual waste of the beginning of
the century.
Performer - Culture & Literature
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
7. Free verse
At the beginning of the 20th century under the influences of
the French Symbolists, such as Stephane Mallarmé
(1842–98), and the American poets Walt Whitman and
Emily Dickinson, many poets:
•
•
rejected the 19th-century regular metre.
employed free verse.
Emily Dickinson
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Walt Whitman
Stephane Mallarmé
Jonathan
Swift and free verse
Modern poetry
7. Free verse
Features of free verse:
•
Absence of the traditional metre
•
Lack of regular rhyme scheme
•
Use of alliteration and assonance
•
Metre and sound determined by a correspondence
between feeling, impression and poetic form and
not by the conventional rules of poetic diction
•
The unifying element is the use of the poetic line
•
Flexibility of verse line length
Performer - Culture & Literature
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Modern poetry and free verse