poetry in the 1970s

poetry in the 1970s
   The 1970s mark a point of transition in poetry. In 1974, Philip Larkin published his last collection of poems, High Windows. The poets, mainly men, whose work had been published for twenty or thirty years or even more, continued to be published, but for many the end of their creative lives was approaching. The most powerful influences were Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) and, more covertly, Edward Thomas (1878–1917). There was a lack of influence in the poetry of the time, and in earlier decades, of the work of the more obviously modernist poetry of Ezra Pound (1885–1972), T.S. Eliot (1888–1965) or even W.H.Auden (1907–73).
   This decade saw the poetry of the powerful writers emerge from the jostling mob into the permanent critical memory, gathering regard and judicious admiration. Tony Harrison, Douglas Dunn, Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, Ruth Pitter and U.A.Fanthorpe are amongst a host of those worth reading. The influence of poetry being written in other countries seems minimal: especially lacking is the sprightliness, speed and power of intellectual control and emotional dynamics found in European and American poetry. Even in the most challenging British poetry there is a sense of the prepared ‘set piece’ in which all the movements are rigidly mapped. A partial breakout might have existed in the work of Craig Raine, where a deracinated metaphysical style reworked the ordinary into the fantastic with flip-flopping, metaphoric trickery. The signature poem, ‘A Martian Sends A Postcard Home’, gave a name to the manner and drew a line under the Martian ‘movement’ (see Martian Poets).
   At the same time a multitude of poetic voices that were to break the cosmopolitan and centralizing hegemony of the London-based ‘academic’ poetry emerged. Black Afro-Caribbean, women’s and regional poetic voices that were seen not as remarkable primitifs but as authentic and variant voices were published. They often took their richness from the coming together of poets in regional centres: the Morden Tower readings, organized by Tom Pickard in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, brought American beat and Black Mountain poetry in a direct way to British writers and readers. The break-up of the slightly complacent consensuality of an earlier generation came violently and vividly at the end of the 1960s and both in Britain and across the world was exacerbated in the 1970s. The most memorable poetry of this decade and the next is a commentary upon that exacerbation.
   Further reading
    Jones, P. and Schmidt, M. (eds) (1980) British Poetry Since 1970: A Critical Survey, Manchester: Carcanet.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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