Poetry You Can Read

"It seemed so simple when one was young
and new ideas were mentioned not to grow red in the face and gobble."

—Logan Pearsall Smith

In his introduction to the 1962 Penguin anthology Contemporary American Poetry, Donald Hall wrote, "For thirty years an orthodoxy ruled American poetry. It derived from the authority of T.S. Eliot and the new critics; it exerted itself through the literary quarterlies and the universities. It asked for a poetry of symmetry, intellect, irony, and wit. The last few years have broken the control of this orthodoxy." Following a brief summary of current trends in which he parodied some of the extremes of the academic formalism of the 1950's, Hall offered quotes from Robert Bly and Louis Simpson as representative of the new direction of poetic style: "This imagination is irrational, yet the poem is usually quiet and the language simple; there is no straining after apocalypse. There is an inwardness to these images, a profound subjectivity." In other words, the poetry arising to challenge the status quo would employ open forms in lieu of the symmetry of traditional meters and rhyme, the voice of the unconscious as opposed to that of the rational mind, and a tone of sincerity and commitment instead of wit and irony. The new poem, if we are to judge from Hall's own selections, would likely be a short, free-verse...

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