Present English poetry:
The English peotry panorama has considerably changed in the last years, even though there are some constants which act as the spine of tradition.
It is not very esay to draw a line between past and present poetry because the border is imprecise.
The starting points are T.S. Eliot (1888- 1965) and Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) because they have a great literay quality and their works make human and individual values have auniversal category. However, we also have to take into account poets such as Masefield, R. Graves and D. Jones, who, even though they come from Georgian times and the first world war, conduct poetry up to present times.
The Oxford poetry group and Roy Campbell:
The most represntative group in the middle of the century is formned by Auden, Day-Lewis, MacNeice and Spender, who are called the Oxford group because they were formed as individuals and became poets in this university.
These poets don´t constitute a deliberate literary movement but they share some common ideas. Their poetry wanted to express people´s voice and they thought that left extremist politics had to offer a satisfactory solution to the social problems.
They have great audacity and intelligent use of images taken from machines, outskirts and environmental conditions.
Louis Mac Neice(1907- 1963) was a brilliant writer. He detects human social problems very quickly and he is interested in a great quantity of things: He has a great linguistic command, he is very fertile and ingenious but his works are more documents of time than authentic poetry.
His main works are: Visitations 1957, Solscites 1961, The burning perch 1963
Stephen Spender (1909) is a left extremist idealist. The Spanish civil war was an imporatnt event in his life and as a result of his experiences in it, his poems reflect love, charity and mercy for all those who suffer from its effects even for cowards and deseters. We can see all this in his poem The Still Centre 1939. When the second world war broke out his attitude was similare wrote Poems about the war.
Cecil Day Lewis (1904-1972) writes with agraetforce and conviction about the situation in England and Europe between 1930 and 1940.
His works are documents about wars, his fears, doubts and disappointments about a period cinic but at the same time energetic.
Overtures to death (1938) is his most important work. It has compositions about the Spanish topic. His political disappointment is paralel to other disappointments originated in his private and sentimental world: Married dialogue, Marriage of two, Ending.
W.H. Auden (1907-1973) was the most important figure in the Oxford group. In his first period he was a left-wing man. He took a critical position in front of the political and cultural atmosphere in the inter-war period and attacked the social deficiency and the administrative inefficiency.
His first poems have a great censorship of the English society and European tradition and an exhaltation of the social revolution as a romantic dream.
In January 1939 Auden went to live to the USA and from this momnet on his attitude approached faith and ancestral religions. For the tiem being (1943) is a series of poems about Christmas which are based on the Gospels and traditional Christmas drama.
Auden´s productiveness is extraordinary. His Collected shorter poems 1930-1944 (1950) contain all his poems with ashort extension written between the mentioned years. In 1968 Collected longer poems appeared in which his long poems are compilated.
Auden is a narrative and objective poet formed in the poetry of Byron, Hardy and Eliot. His coldness, disenchantment and analytic force of types has had a considerable influence on the present young poets.
To these 4 poets, we have to add the figure of Roy Campbell (1901-1957) who had a great satirical vitality and poetic force a Auden but with an ideology, mentality and personality completely different .
He was born and brought up in South Africa, so he had a completely different environment from the one the Oxford group poets had. Campbell spent ashort period in Oxford, he lived in France and then he went to Spain where he converted himself into catholicism and then the civil war broke out in 1936, he changed to the national side.
The Spanish inspiration is one of the main elements in Campbell´s poetry and he seized the scenery and the ambience of Spain and the personality of Spaniards very well.
His main works are: Mythraic Emblems 1936, Flowering Rifle 1939.
Surrealistic, apocalyptic and neorromantic war poets:
The attitude of poets consists of an acceptance of war as an inevitable reality without taking up a given religious or philosophical position.
The poets-soldiers place their worries, loves, fears and nostalgia in a warlike context.
the three movements surrealistic, apocalyptic and neorromantic come one after the other. The ephemeral and late English surrealism is represented by David Gascoyne. In Night thoughts he tried to write a long poem half prose half verse and reflects the present man´s isolation.
In 1938 J.F. Hendry and Henry Treece come up with the apocaliptic group whose collections of poems criticised surrealistic poets severely. The apocaliptic movement is individualistic, pollitically anarchist and shows a barrier face the communist tendency of the Oxford group. This group was absorbed and overrun by neorromanticism whose main poets are Dylan Thomas, Watkins and L. Lee.
Neorromantics keep away from critical or religious poetry in the sense of the Oxford group. They have a more contemplative attitude and they aren´t flattered by social reforms. They look for a solution to their spiritual problems in the mysterious force of life and in the fusion of man and nature
Around 1955 a group of poets got together and formed the so-called Movement. Their ideas were not ambitious and their main worry was to write poetry with intellectual sincerity, limpid and with precision.
Robert Conquest in the anthology New lines (1956) presented a selection of nine poets. In his introduction he explains that in this poetry they don´t want to offer a great theoretical system but simply an empirical attitude in front of man and events. The main poets of the Movement are Larkin, Enright, and Elizabeth Jennings.
Philip Larkin (1922) is the most important poet of the Movement. Following Thomas Hardy, Larkin writes to save thoughts, feelings and emotions from being forgotten because he thinks they are worth being kept for himself and for the rest.
His poetry is hard and intentionally grey as a result of great sincerity. He writes poems from daily things and monotonous moments. He observes a lot.
His collections are: The less deceived (1955) and The Withsun weddings (1964)
D. J. Enright (1920) tends to communicate with the desire of being understood by other people. In his poem Why isn´t your poetry more personal? He shows the impossibility the present man has to be personal in a world where he has destroyed intimacy and individualism.
Elizabeth Jennings (1926) was the only woman who took part in New lines. She is one of the most important English poets.
Her collections are The mind has mountains (1966), Collected Poems (1967), The animals´arrival (1969). She writes with great delicacy, sincerity and precision. Her themes are not very wide but with her own experience she is capable of writing poems with great feminine sensitiveness and deepness for instance her poems of ill people in hospitals.
Among all the poets who began round 1960 we have Ted Hughes, Christopher Logue and Charles Tomlinson. They share generational signs, they are interested in the same topics and they have a brusque and direct style.
Ted Hughes (1930) wrote a lot of poems of animals such as The Hawk in the rain. He was regarded as the force which could change the direction of modern poetry and give a new vitality and freedom. But all these hopes were disproportioned.
The underground generation is the alarm sign of a new revolution. The topics in which they are interested are the modern city with the liberation and oppression, the inspiration and the suffocation the city means, love, mistery, religion, loneliness in the present world, materialism, technology, politics, war.
In the poem of the playwright John Arden (1930) Here I come we can find the protest of a man who is belittled by the immensity of an overwhelming London, a man who walks in streets devoid of love, in spite of being full of buildings.
In love underground poetry, the topics we find are disenchantment, physical desire and infidelity. Modern men get rid of religion, family so he can only find the feeling of loneliness. The imposition of materialistic lifeand the inaesthetic industrialization of the modern world are critisized a lot in modern poetry.
Analysis of Funeral blues by W.H. Auden:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
This poem by W.H. Auden was used in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, and is a powerful expression of the sense of loss we feel upon the death of someone we love.
In W. H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues,” the speaker uses well-constructed poetic language and form to convey her attitude toward the subject of death. It explains how Auden manifests an extremely bitter interpretation of hopelessness and eternal sadness on the part of the speaker as a result of losing a loved one. The speaker in the poem is deeply saddened about the loss of her loved one and the fact that it was a force beyond her control. This person has been taken from her life in haste at a most inopportune time, and she feels as though her life has become pointless. It shows how, through Auden’ s use of tone, language, and structure, he portrays a very well-defined image of death and its effects on the individual, which is by no means desirable.
In “Funeral Blues” Auden makes the bitter attitude of the speaker toward the subject of death apparent to the readers through the use of symbols, imagery, personification, and the metaphor. In the first stanza Auden states, “stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…”. The clock being stopped may signify the fact that he who died has run out of time and also to ask those who knew him to stop what they are doing and reflect. The telephone being cut off brings forth the idea of silence. Auden does this to show the deceased the respect they deserve. She believes in honouring the dead with a moment of silence to pay respect. In the second stanza the speaker states, “let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead.” She uses this metaphoric image to convey the pointlessness of her life and also her grief. What point is there for aeroplanes to fly in circles? She is comparing the pointlessness of flying in circles to her life without her partner.