Modern Poetry

3352:001 Fall 2001

Tim Morris

The Modern period--roughly 1901 through the start of the Second World War in 1939--presents many contradictions. Obsessed with "making it new" (Ezra Pound's phrase), modernists could also be addicted to classical and medieval learning. Formally adventurous, many modernist poets also had classicist tastes and thought of themselves as restoring, not overturning, old decorums. It was a great age of free verse and a great age of traditional rhyme and metre. So what unites the modernists in our selection? A certain starkness, economy of language, a habit of seeing social and political issues (when seen at all) in large mythic terms, a sense of the First World War (the defining historical event of the period) as corrosive and meaningless, a nostalgia for more coherent times and places. I include in this selection several poets who served in the War (Graves and Sassoon survived the war, Thomas and Owen did not). I also include Thomas Hardy, who was older than many writers who are considered strictly "Victorian"; but for me, Hardy's poetry, in tone and style, seems to capture the essence of English high modernism better than anyone else's; he continued to produce poetry through most of this period, till his death in 1928.

Some General Sites

Virtual Seminars on WWI poetry

Resources by Author

An Eliot timeline from the excellent What the Thunder Said site

Robert Graves bio

The Thomas Hardy Association

A Hardy timeline

Charlotte Mew, with a brief life and poems

The Wilfred Owen Association maintains a full-featured site

Michèle Fry's Sassoon site

The Edward Thomas Fellowship, with link to a bio page

One of the better Yeats pages (there aren't too many, unfortunately)