by Rollie McKenna, bromide print
To put it in simple words, Spring spring is the season of bloom.; put in simple words. Philosophically, spring is the time of newness; out with the old gloomy winter and in with new life! The metaphorical reference is not lost on any part of life, history, or even literature, as a matter of fact.
One such emphasis on newness can be seen in the Modernist movement, which included (but wasn’t limited to) literature. Modernist poet Ezra Pound’s maxim “Make It New” aptly describes the modernist spirit of innovation.
The emergence advent of modernism marked a major change in the history of literature. It occurred post the Victorian era with the emergence of two concepts: “Modernism” and “Imagism”. Both these concepts focused on the practicalities of life, instead of metaphors, nature, and the supernatural. Victorian poems mainly concentrated on the stereotypes prevalent in society at that time. They also focused on nationalism, expressed a blind belief in authority and showed a widespread denial of prevalent social issues. They chose to pay attention to the positives of the time instead.
Poets such as Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Oscar Wilde, etc. all belong to the Victorian era. Their works are mostly imaginative, concentrating on the whims conjured by a wandering mind; works which were, no doubt, relevant to the time and are unique in their own aspect, but whose meaning was lost on the metaphorical front that made up most of the context.
Eventually, the attention rapidly shifted to more simplistic, more lenient versions of poetry post-1901. There came the age of modern poets, who relied on myths to make sense of the chaotic present. Their style was very experimental and their subject matter unconventional. The tradition of lyrical expression was dealt away with, giving rise to free verse. The issues that were once taboo were discussed openly (with backlash, of course; but that only strengthened the poets’ resolve to put forth their thoughts more openly). The traditional rules with regards to metre, rhythm, and structure were ignored, and shorts poems written on the whims of the poets came into limelight.
Herbert Read says,
“The modern poet has no essential alliance
with regular schemes of any sorts. He/she reserves the right to adapt his/her rhythm to his/her mood, to modulate his/her metre as he progresses. Far from seeking freedom and irresponsibility, he/she seeks a stricter discipline of exact concord of thought and feeling.”
This is aptly expressed in the works of modern poets such as T.S. Elliot, William Carlos William, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, etc.
T.S Elliot is one of the first poets whose works displayed the transition from imagist works to modernism. His work of poetry, The Waste Land, is considered to be a foundational modernist text. In it, fragments of unrelated snippets of imagery coagulate to form a disjunctive anti-narrative; the central theme being sight and vision – the principal concept of modernism. Another poet, William Carlos, was a great propagator of America’s modernist movement. He sought to break free from the old language of European culture, leaning more towards the idioms of American cultural and social heterogeneity. He came up with the concept of triadic-line poetry, in which one line was broken into three free verse segments. His work, Asphodel That Greeny Flower, is the best example of triadic line poetry.
There were also others who did not fully embrace the concept of modernist poetry. They tried their best to retain the traditions of language and expressionism while manipulating the imagery to modernist standards. Poetess Marianne Moore chose to write using repeated syllables, instead of adhering to a certain number of beats per line. Wallace Stevens’ poetry is also a complex assessment of imagination and reality. His poem, Of Modern Poetry, has the verb “to be” left out in the first and the last lines. It explores the intricate boundary between the mind and the poem, carefully navigating the subject and the object via form and content, emphasising the transcendental action of the mind.
The ease of modern poetry paved the way to freedom of speech in a manner that the structure and integrity of a poem were overlooked, and content concentrated upon. It opened a wide variety of opportunities for the expression of creative liberty; not only by those learned in the art of literature but also by those who solely write poetry to express their feelings and desires. This exposure garnered versatility on all facets of life, paving the way to the consistent evolution of poetry.