Modernism moves to New York • Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism • Faulkner “discovered” (1946, Nobel Prize, 1948) • American film (trade agreement with post-war France) • Nabokov in town (since 1940) • Jazz and Popular Culture • W.H. Auden reverses earlier expatriate pattern of Pound, Eliot, and Company – becomes an American citizen
Other Postwar Poets Reflect Trend • Silvia Plath is the British poet from Jamaica Plain • Ted Hughes is most famous for his American wife • Philip Larkin is a dedicated aficionado and published critic of American jazz. The most modern element in his nostalgic poetry (besides the four-letter words) is jazz influenced
Rhyme and Meter Remain in Force • Whitman’s influence (overwhelming on American poets like William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, and Allen Ginsberg) is considerably muted in Britain. • These innovative Americans for the most part ignore British post-war poets.
What’s Missing? • We will not be studying the most influential British lyric poets of the period, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but the popular culture they represent became more and more inescapable – and their work mostly rhymed, too!
W.H. Auden (1907-1973) • Son of a physician – medical themes in poems • Attends private schools, then Christ Church, Oxford • Close friend of Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood • Freudian socialist as a young man, interested in Christian theology later • Influenced by Hardy, Hopkins, Eliot, and Yeats • Becomes an American citizen in 1946 • Pulitzer Prize, 1948 • Moves back to Oxford the year before his death
“In Memory of W.B. Yeats” • Laden with allusions to Yeats’s life and poetry • Plays upon the elegiac tradition • Reflects Auden’s preference for sense over sound (this often means political sense) • Asserts Auden’s own bid for Yeats’s crown
Philip Larkin (1922-1985) • Born Coventry, England – his father an admirer of Hitler • Professional librarian all his life • Founder of “The Movement”with Kingsley Amis, Thomas Gunn • Influenced by Hardy, Yeats, and Dylan Thomas • Jazz critic • Obsessively concerned in his poems with the anguish of mortality • The Whitson Weddings (1964) • Controversial Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973) • High Windows (1974)
“High Windows” • Its opening frank obscenity makes this poem inescapably modern • Its reference to pills and diaphragms reinforce this impression – an ugly one • The rest is wistful, nostalgic for oneself • This emphasis on the speaker’s own pocket edition lost paradise is the essence of “confessional” verse.
Ted Hughes (1930-1998) • Born in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire • Radio mechanic in Royal Air Force • B.A. at Cambridge – majoring in archaeology and anthropology –where he meets Sylvia Plath • On Plath's encouragement, Hughes submits his first manuscript, The Hawk in the Rain, to The Poetry Center's First Publication book contest, which announces him as the winner. • After her suicide, he writes no poetry for years, editing hers • Crow (1970) • Appointed Poet Laureate in 1984 • The Birthday Letters (1998)
“Wind” • Sophisticated slant-rhymes apt for its disorienting imagery • Shifting verb tenses from stanza to stanza • Lurking “confessional” content • Domestic setting denies universals • Abrupt images subvert the timelessness of the Imagist ideal – until the end
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) • Born in Jamaica Plain, Mass • Graduates from Smith summa cum laude, 1955; wins Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge, England • Marries Ted Hughes • On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath kills herself with cooking gas at the age of 30 • Autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, published in 1963 • Two years later Ariel, a collection of some of her last poems, published • Crossing the Water and Winter Trees in 1971 • The Collected Poems, 1981, edited by Ted Hughes
“Lady Lazarus” • Autobiographical prophecy – she makes it come true • Myths, archetypes, even the Holocaust applied to oneself • Reinvents the woman poet – as Lamia? • The three-line stanza is the only constant – this is the closest thing to freedom from meter and rhyme we will read from these poets • But meter and rhyme are still important here – look how closely this poem resembles Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”