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BJU American Literature Chapter 12
Modern American Poetry
Terms in this set (45)
Edwin Arlington Robinson
Born in 1869 and died in 1935. This traditionalist is representative of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Early in life he sensed that he was meant to write poetry. The sense of tragedy that darkens many of his poems are born out of his youthful experience in Gardiner, Maine. His parents favored his 2 older brothers and did not encourage his writing career. A local doctor taught him meter and, with others, provided a sympathetic audience for Robinson's early work. He moved to New York City after 2 years in Harvard and 4 years back in Gardiner. President Theodore Roosevelt wrote an article on this man and offered him a governmental position. However, this man dropped this position after 5 years because he could not write under the requirements of a regular job. Lived off of the generosity of friends until he could make enough money from his writings. Wrote most of his poetry in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Mostly long narratives in blank verse. Drank heavily while here. Reaped numerous awards during his last years of life. According to most critics, his best works are the short, revealing sketches of painfully isolated people. This man wrote in traditional forms using rhyme and meter and depended on sonnet and quatrain. He portrayed his characters as victims in a narrow, repressive environment. His poems explore what goes on inside of the character. Saw humanity going down an endless plight. However, he sometimes softened this by speaking of a coming redeeming "Light."
Poetry written in regular metrical but unrhymed lines, almost always iambic pentameters.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The protagonist sees himself as a failure in his own eyes as well as in the eyes of those around him. Although he lives in the an imaginary world of the past, his motives and values are closely tied to the present. Minivier Cheevy thinks that his environment is to blame for his failure when it is really his own weakness that makes it impossible. Minivier Cheevy's life can be parallel with Robinson's both were children of scorn (Robinson never felt loved by his parents and had much sadness during his childhood).
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. This poem is about how happiness does gain one happiness. Richard Cory, the man most envied in the town, is quite wealthy and proper. However, he is so unhappy that he commits suicide. The people and the poet do not see under Cory's facade.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The main character is atypical of Robinson's poems. The wormwood represents life's hardships. The surprise in this story is that a person who should be miserable is actually happy. This is because he accepts the hardships of life. Develops from the irony of the situation.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The Cassandra of Greek mythology. Was given the gift of prophecy, but because she offended the gods, she was cursed so that no one would believe her prophecies. In the same way that the Trojans rejected Cassandra's warning about the Trojan horse, the Americans reject Cassandra's warning about money. In the same way that the horse brought down the Trojans, the Americans will be brought down by money.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The title of this poem literally means "I believe." The poem paints the bleak fate of man, but also speaks of the coming "Light." Uses the traditional Italian sonnet but has the modern theme of life's bleakness.
Born in 1874 and died in 1963. Named after Robert E. Lee. His works, while strikingly regional in setting, character, and language, are universal in theme. Born in San Francisco but was a New Englander by ancestry and choice. Published his first poem in his high school newspaper. His mother supported the family by teaching after his father's death. Replaced his mother and taught in Methuen, Massachusetts. Married Elinor White in 1895. Attended Harvard from 1898 through 1900. Moved to a farm in Derry, New Hampshire in 1900. Also taught after 1906. Devoted himself to poetry and moved his family to England for the cheaper living. He published 2 volumes of poetry A Boy's Will (1903) and North of Boston (1914). In 1915, this man returned to the U.S. and found himself famous. His fame continued to grow as he grew older. Frequently served at prominent colleges and universities, published 10 more volumes of poetry (4 of which earned Pulitzer Prizes), and received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge as well as from nearly 40 other American colleges and universities. He was even invited to the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. His personal life was much more tragic. 3 of his children died, his wife died, one of his sons committed suicide, one of his daughters had a mental illness, and he was denied a Nobel Prize in literature and other real and imagined slights. Used many details on nature to act as a backdrop for human thought and action. His poetry contains subtle didacticism. His views left little room for the Bible.
Written by Robert Frost. In this poem, the poet invites the reader to come away. Written in first person with the speaker directly addressing the reader. The language is colloquial and idiomatic and is filled with homey details of the rural New England life. Found in Frost's first book of verse.
The Gift Outright
Written by Robert Frost. Frost himself recited this poem by memory at JFK's inauguration. Frost once called it "a history of the United States in a dozen lines of blank verse." This poem essentially states that we did not become Americans until the middle or late eighteenth century, especially with the War of Independence. Before that point we were mostly European immigrants, not Americans. We had to give ourselves (in many cases through death in war) in order to belong to America. The last three lines emphasize that the cost was well worth the gain. Though the land was great when the patriots died, it will be much greater in the future.
The Road Not Taken
Written by Robert Frost. This poem refers to general situation that all people face. The point where a person must choose between two alternatives. It is not any deeper or more specific than that. The narrator speaking is speaking from experience.
The Death of the Hired Man
Written by Robert Frost. One of Frost's most famous poems. Louis Untermeyer states that it is many types of poems. According to him it is a narrative, a dialogue, and a drama. 3 people are portrayed: The farmer, his wife, and an old incompetent hired hand, shiftless and proud--and the character most fully revealed is the one who never appears.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Written by Robert Frost. In the poem, the narrator states that he has many miles to go before he rests. In essence, he is saying that he has much more to do before he lies down in death. Comparable to Paul's statement to the Philippians (It is better to be with Christ but there are things to do here).
Written by Robert Frost. This poem discusses the topic of national borders. Frost seems to favor the idea of tearing down all borders, but finds that he cannot bring himself to tear down the borders. This is found in the last line "Good fences make good neighbors." The poem is a solid example of a regional setting presenting a universal theme.
Written by Robert Frost. Like Frost's ideal poem, this work starts in delight and ends with wisdom. 3 sections of the poem (lines 1-20, 21-40, and 41-59) show a steady progression toward wisdom. Lines 1-20 talk about the birch trees themselves. Lines 21-40 talk describe the life of the boy. Lines 41-59 comment on life. The first section describes the effects of ice storms on the tree. The next describes the "science" of swinging on the trees. The last on applies the sport to life. The poet is saying that he wants to get away from the cares and go toward heaven. However, the author does not want to go there, he wants to come back to Earth eventually. This shows Frost's middle-of-the-road philosophy.
Written by Robert Frost. This poem moves from places of isolation in the world to places of isolation in himself. The former does not bother the poet; the latter terrifies him.
John Crowe Ransom
This minor traditionalist was born in 1888 and died in 1974. An important twentieth-century literary critic and poet. Leader of the Fugitives, or Southern Agrarians. This group regularly met to discuss philosophy and to read their own verse. In a prose volume entitled I'll Take My Stand (1930), the Fugitives defended the Southern way of life and thought. The chief spokesman for a set of critical attitudes called the New Criticism. This movement stressed intensive study of a literary work through close reading and detailed analysis. New Critics rejected "interest in the mined and personality of the poet, sources, the history of ideas, and political and social implication." This poet combines serious topics with wit and irony. His themes frequently include death, the decline of the South after the Civil War, and the contrast between rural and urban life (chivalry vs. commercialism).
Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter
Written by John Crowe Ransom. This poem looks at the death of a child through the eyes of an adult. By referring to the girl as "John Whiteside's daughter" rather than by name, he further shows how he did not really know the girl. The shock of the child's death is shown through the contrast of her current stillness in death and her activity in life.
This minor traditionalist was born in 1903 and died in 1963. Born to a family of German florists. Became a teacher at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Washington. He advised his students to study the works of other poets and to write like them. His poems fall into 2 categories: (1) Those that are "orthodox in form, rational in theme, ironic in tone" and (2) those that are free in form, sometimes bordering on the irrational and surrealistic. His works are traditional in that his themes and form are heavily based on Emerson and Whitman. Earned the Pulitzer and the Bollingen prizes before he died.
Written by Theodore Roethke. This poem describes a certain sadness or grief. This work is about how impersonal institutions overwhelm the individual. Grew out of his experience in universities.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
This minor traditionalist was born in 1892 and died in 1950. This woman's mother taught the poet rhyme at 4 years old. Her first published poem "Renascence" brought national fame. Held to the bohemian lifestyle. Moved to Europe where she married Eugen Boissevain who managed her career. Traditional in vocabulary and verse form but modern in theme and tone.
Written by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This poem is about inner beauty. It is debated as to who the narrator is. Some say that it is the poet who is thinking in the place of her lover. Others say that it is the lover himself directly addressing the poet. Either way, the point is that the lover loves the woman despite her physical imperfections. This shows true love.
This minor traditionalist was born in 1907 and died in 1973. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1939. Before that point he was a staunch Marxist. After his naturalization, he became more traditional by suggesting that answers to society's problems may be found in religion (not specifically the Bible). His use of alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme show traditional style as well.
The Unknown Citizen
Written by W.H. Auden. Satirizes the modern welfare state. Does so via burlesque and doggerel. The monument reveals no internal qualities of the person. This shows the shallowness of the ideal citizen. The fact that the citizen is given a number rather than name is indicative of the deadness of the bureaucratic government. The mish-mash pattern of the poem also suggests that it was made by a committee.
This experimentalist was born in 1885 and died in 1972. Spent most of his adult life in Europe. He joined with several other American expatriates in London and led the imagist movement. This movement revolted against the most poetic forms developed in the past. Strongly influenced by aesthetic principles from Oriental poetry. This man edited this group's first volume of poetry. Des Imagistes (1913). The imagist creed is stated in 6 rules: (1) "to use the language of common speeck, but to employ always the exact word," (2) "to create new rhythms" through the use of free verse, (3) "to allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject," (4) "to present an image" through the use of particular details, (5) "to produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite," and (6) to concentrate as much as possible into the fewest words possible. After 1920, this man lived in Paris for 4 years and then in Italy. While in Italy, this man supported fascism and anti-Semitism and created anti-American propaganda during WW2.
In a Station of the Metro
Written by Ezra Pound. This is the shortest yet one of the most famous imagist works. Captures the scene of a French metro station. Notice the poem imitates the sound of a train stopping.
William Carlos Williams
This experimentalist was born in 1883 and died in 1963. Was a pediatrician and a poet. While studying medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, he met Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle. Spent some time in Europe but returned to Rutherford, New Jersey. Consciously wrote to represent actual American speech. His greatest poetic affinity lay with Walt Whitman. He himself state the imagism was a passing interest, yet much of his work serve as examples of imagism.
Written by William Carlos Williams. Both of these poems exemplify the imagist ideology. Both lack meaning and capture a certain image. The former captures an action; the latter captures an image.
This experimentalist was born in 1892 and died in 1982. An unusual representative of imagism. Practiced law in Boston for 3 years (1920-1923) then moved to Paris to focus on writing. Became good friends with other American expatriates while here. Rejected the life of an expatriate 5 years later and returned to the U.S. Gained a stronger awareness of his national, social, and cultural heritage at this point. In the final phase of his career, he called attention to social issues, held many prominent roles in the American government, and won many literary prizes.
Written by Archibald MacLeish. The title is Latin for "the art of poetry." This poem has been called a fitting epitaph for imagism. Illustrates the modern misconception that a poem should not be didactic. The first stanza compares poetry to a rounded fruit, which is "palpable" and "mute." The second stanza likens a poem to an old coin which suggests much due to its age, but actually says nothing. These two stanzas rhyme except for the last two lines. The last stanza summarizes the images of the poem and the theme. Ironically, in trying to not teach (staying in tune with imagism) the poem ends up teaching.
This experimentalist was born in 1878 and died in 1967. Born in 1878 in Galesburg, Illinois, to Swedish immigrants. His irregular education ended in eighth grade. At that point, he had to take on a regular job. He took on several odd jobs. While a teenager, he told his sister that he would be a writer or a hobo. Attended college in Galesburg while working at the fire department, but walked away with no degree. One of his college professors privately published this author's book of poetry In Reckless Ecstasy. Worked as a political organizer, a minor city official, and a journalist over the next 10 years. He continued writing poetry, particularly Chicago which he saw as representative of America. The influential magazine Poetry began publishing this man's poems. These poems exemplified free verse and had no regard for meter. His subjects were also uninhibited and he freely used slang. Published a 6 volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, whom he saw as an inspiration for all Americans. He spent 30 years researching and 8 years writing to complete this project. Many criticize this man's use of free verse and his reputation has declined in recent years. This is due to the age of his experimentation. Many of his poems act as vehicles for his socialist, unbiblical propaganda.
Written by Carl Sandburg. This poem shows Sandburg's contribution to modern American poetry. His poem is raw, violent, and unformed because the subject is raw, violent, and unformed.
Written by Carl Sandburg. This poem shows Sandburg's indebtedness to imagist ideology. This poem simply states the fog comes and goes like cats.
Written by Carl Sandburg. This poem states that despite man's actions (exemplified by major battles fought at Austerlitz, Waterloo, Gettysburg, Ypres, and Verdun) nature covers these actions via grass. The grass covers the scars and people forget about these conflicts.
This experimentalist was born in 1894 and died in 1962. An individualist above all else. Graduated from Harvard in 1916 with a master's degree. Joined the Ambulance Corps of the American Red Cross in 1916. The French erroneously through him in prison for treason due to his letters. This experience gave this man material for his novel The Enormous Room. After WW1, this man lived in Paris and studied art. Here he met Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, and Ezra Pound. These men strongly influenced this man's work. Divided painted in the day and wrote in the evenings. Most of his poems are either lyrics (celebrating things like sensual desires) or satire (satirizing things social institutions and materialism. Believed that individualism was the most important thing and relished in sensual desires. Wrote incorrectly in order to get people to view ordinary things in different ways.
"when serpents bargain for the right to squirm"
Written by E.E. Cummings. This poem uses absurdities in order to make its point. The work is in the form of a sonnet and uses slant rhyme (approximation of rhyme).
"somewhere i have never travelled"
Written by E.E. Cummings. This is a love poem. "I" of the poem describes the effect that the one he loves has on him.
Written by E.E. Cummings. This poem appeared in 1923 in Cummings's first book of poetry. A tribute of spring. The balloonman's description is a reference to the Greek god Pan. The reference to this balloonman may refer to the timelessness of spring.
Written by E.E. Cummings. This poem scrambles the letters in order to show how a grasshopper jumps around.
Born in 1879 and died in 1955. His poems went unrecognized for a long time because T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland" had come out a year before his first volume of poetry. This man would go on to publish more volumes of poetry. In his work, he focuses on the nature and function of poetry, the role of the poet, and the power of the imagination. He believed that the creative imagination must impose order on experience in order to make sense out of the confusion of life. Art was his religion.
Written by Wallace Stevens. This poem states that God either does not exist or, if He does, than He is absent from the universe. Two characters, the woman and the woman's conscience (the narrator). The poem asserts that Christ is no different from Greek mythology. Thus, Christianity is replaced with neo-paganism. The title of the poem puns on son (as in the Son of God) with sun. The woman is contemplating religious matters on a Sunday morning (when Christians are in church) in the morning sun. Stanza 1: This stanza sets up the setting, situation, and central question of the poem. The woman begins to consider why Sunday is celebrated. Christ's resurrection makes her uneasy. Stanza 2: Here the woman questions her need to give her life ("her bounty") to Christ. She instead turns to nature for comfort and meaning and to the romantic ideology. Stanza 3: The first part of this stanza relates God to Jove/Jupiter of Roman mythology. Then states that both are merely wish fulfillment. The woman then believes that there is no division between earth and heaven. Stanza 4: The woman wonders if Earth is all there is. The poet says that eternal life is a delusion. Stanza 5: The woman states that she needs some eternal bliss. The poet states that she should simply be aware of death. Such an awareness raises the appreciation of life. Stanza 6: The poet caricatures paradise by calling it static. It is static because death is not there to change things (reference to the previous stanza). Stanza 7: This stanza depicts the pagan sun-worshipers who chant the praises of the creation, not God. The last two lines emphasize that man has a natural beginning and end (God did not create us nor will we spend eternity in heaven or hell). Stanza 8: The argument against Christianity is brought to a close. The poet states that Christ did not rise and that death is all that man has to look forward to. The final lines introduce a movement toward darkness, symbolizing death.
James Weldon Johnson
Born in 1871 and died in 1938. This black man served in several positions in the government and was general secretary of the NAACP. The author of the Negro national hymn "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing." Was a professor of creative literature at Fisk University and was a critic and a novelist. He was especially a poet and helped lay a foundation for the Harlem Renaissance. His best work is God's Trombones.
Written by James Weldon Johnson. This poem, while using Biblical material, focuses on Black heritage. Johnson viewed his material as mere legend or myth. This is a reverent but humanlike view of the Creator.
Born in 1888 and died in 1965. Had a broad education at institutions such as Harvard, Sorbonne (in Paris), and Oxford. He then taught school in England for 2 years. and from 1918 to 1924 served at Lloyd's Bank in London. Became a member of the British publishing firm Faber and Faber. Became a British subject in 1927. In his most important early works, this man starkly portrayed the sterility of modern society. The year 1927 marked a major change in his life. At this point he converted to Christianity and wrote "Journey of the Magi." In his poems, he points out society's ills and states that the solution is traditional religion.
"Journey of the Magi"
Written by T.S. Eliot. This poem came as an abrupt contrast to Eliot's earlier poems. Provides 3 meanings: (1) It is a dramatic monologue spoken by one of the wise men who came to see the Christ Child, (2) it is, according to many critics, a picture of Eliot's conversion, and (3) it is an imaginative protrayal of the journey of a soul from doubt and despair to spiritual life. Eliot's understatement of the of the experience that the magi have shows their inability to comprehend the significance of the event. In lines 32-40, the narrator is confronted with the similarities in a fallen world between birth and death, and he grapples with a dichotomy that he has never before recognized.
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