Modernist poetry

Modernist poetry refers to poetry written, mainly in Europe and North America, between 1890 and 1950 in the tradition of modernist literature, but the dates of the term depend upon a number of factors, including the nation of origin, the particular school in question, and the biases of the critic setting the dates. The critic/poet C. H. Sisson observed in his essay Poetry and Sincerity that “Modernity has been going on for a long time. Not within living memory has there ever been a day when young writers were not coming up, in a threat of iconoclasm.”

Notwithstanding it is usually said to have begun with the French Symbolist movement and it artificially ends with the Second World War, the beginning and ending of the modernist period are of course arbitrary. Poets like W. B. Yeats (1865–1939) and Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) started in a post-Romantic, Symbolist vein and modernised their poetic idiom after being affected by political and literary developments. Imagism proved radical and important, marking a new point of departure for poetry. Some consider ‘it began in the works of Hardy and Pound, Eliot and Yeats, Williams and Stevens. English language poets, like T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost, Basil Bunting (‘a born modernist’), Wallace Stevens and E.E. Cummings also went on to produce work after World War II.

The concept
In the field of art and poetry, modernity characterizes what in art and poetry is or becomes ” modern “. It transforms something modern into an ” artistic ” object or vice versa.

However, modernity is not just a movement or a literary or artistic period. So, how to define it?

Poetry being the art of rhythmic language, it is both a language and an aesthetic approach. In the so-called “modern” period, aesthetics is no longer only characterized as what is defined as ” beautiful “, but as what is worthy of being looked at, and that another look can magnify, sublimate. Thus, modernity, sublimation of the present, wants to take into account all the elements of reality. By recreating the real present, not the idealized present, one attains the artistic status. The modern world thus returns to poetry. In the manner of Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made or some of Francis Ponge’s poems, all objects can become poetic.

Although the first historical concept quoted is from Walter Benjamin, if we define the characteristics of what can be understood by modern poetry, we can conclude that today’s great poets, such as Manoel de Barros, in Brazil, practice a poetry that places them still in Brazilian modernism, not in postmodernism, a term of more vague definition, which could only be defined as a period (after the modern) or a reactive tendency to the modern (which would configure a little expressive current in the scope of poetry, not including important authors, not including even the few authors of expression that declared postmodern, as Charles Olson, whose poetry is commonly called “telegraphic” (concept already used in the early twentieth century, associated with Futurism), therefore, in the period of modern poetry. In the case of the US poet, the first and most important proposer of the term postmodernism for poetry after English-language poetic modernism, he uses as reference for the definition of postmodern poetry the poetry of Ezra Pound, which fuses ancient elements and avant-garde. However, we observe that the attitude of uniting tradition and experimentation is not so new in the scope of poetry that was configured from Baudelaire, existing from the Castilian-speaking modernism of the first Rubén Darío, for example. That is to say, the tendency of foundation and synthesis with the old one exists within the own modern poetry from its beginnings. There is no significant response to the concept of “modern” in poetry, which we could not place in absolute terms as an evolutionary line , and with poets clearly practicing poetry of modern innovation, postmodernism becomes an essentially vague concept for the poetic arts.

For these and other reasons, using a terminology still accepted (and close to other arts) we could define modern poetry as all poetry of the historical avant-garde, as well as all that poetry that first brought to light the essential characteristics of these, besides the modernist tendencies or contemporaries that could not exist without the primacy of the vanguards or those tendencies that gave rise to it, excluding the concept of modern the concept of “merely contemporary. ” The guiding thread of the definition of modern Poetry is, therefore, Poetry of vanguard in its historical sense, different from the sense of “constant rupture” given by Octavio Paz .

It should be noted, therefore, that modernism and modern are not necessarily synonymous. At least there is only one modernism, being called modernism very different movements between them in Castilian (19th century), English and Portuguese (20th century) , for example, while in France, as we have said, in the French pre-symbolist Baudelaire as a landmark of modern-day poetry. There is, therefore, a disagreement between dates and concepts. For various reasons, then, some say that the modern period in poetry does not end with the avant-garde, but in the 1960s or in 1970. Or even that this continues to this day .

In any case, Symbolism and its like, by its emphasis on the sensations and / or exploration of the unconscious (because we can relate it to Impressionism and Expressionism and Surrealism) and by a greater tendency of abstraction and also by the Formal innovations (because we can relate it to other, more constructivist vanguards), Symbolism, we say, which has its roots in Baudelaire’s poetry, becomes the mark of a new poetry in Europe that would bring the vanguards and the modernisms. Other innovative poets have occurred in other parts of the world, such as Souzândrade , Emily Dickinson in the United States , but their works did not have repercussion and did not have immediate historical continuity in what they brought of more particular in their aesthetics. It is interesting to note that Souzândrade belongs to Brazilian Romanticism, and that poetic theorists such as Octavio Paz and Ferreira Gullar situate the beginning of the evolutionary line of modern poetry, in a broad sense, precisely in Romanticism. Not so influential but influential as to be practically copied in style by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (in the person of Álvaro de Campos) is the unclassifiable poetry of accentuated oral tones using the free verse of the American poet Walt Whitman, ideologically belonging to Romanticism, since the year 1855, with Leaves of the grass, representing another source in the origin of modern poetry .

Characteristics and development

The Dadaism of Hugo Ball in Cabaret Voltaire, representative of the shock caused by the vanguards, (1916)
The symbolists’ emphasis on sensation becomes the first disagreement with imitative art in poetry, reflecting the effect of the technological innovations of the time on human sensibility. If in the plastic arts the advent of the modern was related to the invention of photography, which forced artists to turn to other forms of more abstract representations of reality, it is from a new way of capturing the reality that the modern is established in poetry. It is from this emphasis, from Baudelaire’s Correspondences, that a poetry that interprets the psyche and human feelings from the concrete world will emerge. In different ways, such a concept will be present in the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, Lautréamont and the Surrealists, on the one hand, and Mayakovsky, Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, the imagers and objectivists, on the other hand.

With Expressionism, first appearing in painting and theater, inner reality becomes more important than outer reality. Around 1910, in Germany, mainly from the publication of the first issue of the magazine Der Sturm (The Storm), the expressionist way of producing art would begin to influence German poets. In addition, they begin to deconstruct grammar, using synthetic language and neologisms. Despite these radical innovations, some expressionist sayings still use metrics and even sonnet.

A year earlier, in 1909, the first manifesto comes futuristic of Marinetti, expressing his love for the machine and by force, but also by the movement, which produced the intention of capturing the moving image through words. Such intention would in fact be fulfilled by the so-called cube-futurists Russians, from 1912, having like its best known poet Vladimir Maiakóvski. For the futurists, the metric no longer made any sense, and rhyme and rhythm were concepts very different from the usual, as seen in How to Make Verses, the theoretical book by Mayakovsky.

Other features have been produced throughout the modern period in poetry, such as fragmentation and / or simplification of language. In order to simplify the language of the poem we have the greater use of free verse and the approach to orality, first only in its rhythm, characteristics that had already appeared in poetry since 1855 with the poet Walt Whitman, a poet who still preserved some characteristics of Romanticism, a contemporary movement to it, such as a certain patriotism .
The rejection of pre-established forms of writing is a constant in modern poetry, even when this (in a milder form of modernism, such as Imagism of Ezra Pound) explores said last elements of “classic”, or scholars in the production of poems) . Such rejection of what has been called “passadism” in Brazil was usually expressed through artistic manifestoes, with the intention of propagandizing the ideas of a movement. The movements and / or publicity of his aesthetics have always been of central importance to all modernism, making this type of posture also become a characteristic of the modern in relation to poets: the attitude of the poet starts to count a lot at sometimes overshadowing the literary work itself. These characteristics, however, are not exclusive to the vanguards or modern poetry, appearing since the Naturalism of Zola the production of manifestos and concern for the poet’s personal attitude since Romanticism.

We must dwell on the fact that many tendencies of modernism in poetry are less radical than the proposals of the historical vanguards, begun with Futurism, in literature, in its rejection of the past. As an example, in addition to the poetry of the above mentioned imagers, we can put the poetry called Modernist made in Castilian language, initiated in the Americas with Rubén Darío, in the late nineteenth century, still related to Parnassianism but also to the most innovative aspects of the poetry of the French symbolists. Darío, too, was already using the neologism. As they approach the 1920s, movements that react against what they considered merely ornamental in this poetry emerge, and vanguards such as the Creationism of the ChileanHuidobro and the Ultraísmo of Guillermo de Torre and Borges. In Portugal, Cesário Verde approached Impressionism in its aesthetic and Baudelaire, anticipating advances of Portuguese poetry of the twentieth century. When modernism finally broke out in Portugal, boosted by the creation of Orpheu magazine in 1915, it emerges with the same characteristics of Cesário Verde’s work mixed with new cubist and futuristic tendencies. Some poets, like Fernando Pessoa, belonging to the generation of Orpheu, sometimes also write a poetry of classic accents, such as the Horace odes by Ricardo Reis, and can not be considered, perhaps, modern. However, his heteronym Álvaro de Campos is the one who will appear in the pages of the Portugal Futurist magazine (1917), committed to some cubist / futurist forms of composition and modernist ideology.

From the twenties to the Second World War, Surrealism predominates, exploring a certain ideological primitivism and deepening the knowledge of the unconscious initiated in poetry by Symbolism and followed by expressionism, moving away from the formal experimentalism of the first vanguards. Arising from Dadaism (another among the first avant-garde tendencies) that preached the total irrationalism of language, as its dissent, Surrealism focuses on semantic issues, engaging later, mostly, in Marxism, and is considered by many to be the the end point of avant-gardes and modern poetry .

Of course, this date can not be a consensus. In Brazil, as we know, it was only in the 1920s that modernism began to take shape, at the time of Modern Art Week, through the influence of the European vanguards. Assuming several formal characteristics, however, it should be noted that elements of the synthesis of Cubists, Futurists and Expressionists were present in almost all the greatest Brazilian modernist poets, with a great reaction against romantic eloquence and a certain kind of characteristically Parnassian formalism. A certain primitivism has been sought since its inception, and linguistic “deviation” is valued by almost all as a way of creating a “Brazilian language” in literature, which opposes the new poets of this phase to all canonical poetry prior to the avant-gardes. Ofree or prosaic verse and the prose poem become more employed than the metric verse. Many of these features are still prevalent today. It is difficult to locate the end of modernism in Brazil.

Many avant-garde poets and modernist tendencies, including in Brazil, such as Cassiano Ricardo, for example, continued to write poems that were clearly modern until the 1960s, which would have been enough to situate modernist poetry for much longer than World War II. In addition, some later movements in poetry, such as the Beat Generation in the USA, begun in the 1950s, of concrete Poetry in Brazil, and even the poets of Language(the avant-garde group of American poetry of the 1960s and 70s) practically produced nothing in general and formal terms that could be classified as non-modernist, according to several important authors, with a continuity in the tradition of rupture practiced by the vanguards of the beginning of the 20th century . Other poets, such as the American EE Cummings and the Brazilian Manoel de Barros, took to extremes the experiences initiated by other modern poets. Manoel de Barros, for example, clearly delves into his poetry the legacy of Poesia Pau Brasil andAnthropophagous, even classifying his poetry as primitive Vanguard. Both poets explore aspects of spoken or oral language, albeit differently. Manoel de Barros uses “the natural neological language” preached by Oswald de Andrade in Brazilian modernism and sometimes approaches Surrealism. Cummings explores “the micro-rhythms of speech” through inventive typographic provision. Such procedures of the American poet, merely as an illustration of modern characteristics, would be unthinkable before the avant-gardes and some of their precursors, such as the Symbolist Mallarmé. Mallarmé had, in the book Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard, replaced the verse in the construction of the poem by what would be called “prismatic subdivision”.

Given this, it would not be absurd to consider as modern poetry, tendencies often classified as postmodern in poetry (given the difficulty of defining them), configuring what some have called the second avant-garde , which would have arisen in the 1950s and would span the 1960s, 1970s, and perhaps even today. Part of the second cutting edge, according to those who advocate the term, the beat poetry itself, the concrete poetry, the visual poetry, the poem / process and sonoristas experiments in poetry (those arising from Futurism, Dadaism and work of Kurt Schwitters). InThe word revolution, here cited work, Jerome Rothenberg says: “The new groups appearing in the mid-1950s (Black Mountain, Beats, School of New York, deep image, concrete poetry, random processes, etc.) re- explored the idea of a vanguard, with almost total indifference to academic limitations. ” All these tendencies explore a definition of poetry that escapes the usual distinction between genres, valuing the graphic, spatial, approach to music or intervention and performance. The roots of these forms of expression are already in Dadaism, in Futurism and in the approximate thought of the surrealism of Antonin Artaud, and we can still consider that the dilution of boundaries between literary genres was already present in the poem in prose practiced by some romantics and perfected by the same Baudelaire.

If we evaluate the formal characteristics of modern poetry, then it becomes difficult to make any assertions about its end. The only undeniable fact is that poetry has been shaken between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which has made possible much more inventive and diverse ways of writing poetry, as we see it until the twenty-first century. Moreover, from the avant-gardes, it was the so-called modern poets who began to determine which traditions were valid for poetry.

Modernity thus renews the genre of poetry.

Emergence of Parnassus
Parnassus can be summed up in one idea: art for art, because it promotes beauty as the only interest of poetry. It was Théophile Gautier who launched the principle of art for art in 1830 in his preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin, where we can quote “there is nothing really beautiful that is useless”.

It is then Leconte de Lisle who follows in the footsteps of Gautier writing a preface to his Poems antique where he denounces an excessive importance of lyricism among the Romantics, and wishes a “regeneration of forms: refusal of personal lyricism, moral neutrality and political, impassive, rigorous worship to strict, themes are marked by the obsession of nothingness, the exoticism and traditionalism. ” So there is an evolution, a change, a renewal of the old poetic features to give to Parnassus unique shapes.

Prose: symbol of modernity
Modernity is marked and sometimes symbolized by prose poetry.

Traditionally opposed to verse, prose nevertheless retains deep marks of poetry in verse, thanks to the internal play of structure, rhythm and sound. But it is above all the element described in the poem transformed into a poetic object which seems to indicate the belonging of these texts to the genre of poetry.

Thus, “the prose poem is a literary form whose growth is linked to the empowerment of the literary field, of which it is an ideal and iconic textual manifestation”

Importance of modern life
The idea of modernity appears with the emergence of romantic poets. The goal romantic has been to “bring contemporary life in the literature. “. For poets and novelists, Stendhal and Nodier distinguish romanticism from classicism, which is “modern” according to Nodier. In his poetry, Lamartine also evokes the problems of time: “Shame to whom can not sing while Rome burns” (Reply to Nemesis, 1831). For Baudelaire, “modern life” is very important: “modernity is the transient, the fugitive, the contingent, half of the art, the other half is the eternal and immutable”.

Moreover, modernity transforms the ugly, yet defined as unsightly, into an aesthetic object. Thus, poetry challenges not the criteria of beauty, but the look that the human gateway to the world.

The banal is also transformed into an aesthetic object, since modernity takes into account all the elements of reality. Any object, extraordinary or banal, becomes an aesthetic object.

Nature of modernism
Modernism emerged with its insistent breaks with the immediate past, its different inventions, ‘making it new’ with elements from cultures remote in time and space. The questions of impersonality and objectivity seem to be crucial to Modernist poetry. Modernism developed out of a tradition of lyrical expression, emphasising the personal imagination, culture, emotions, and memories of the poet. For the modernists, it was essential to move away from the merely personal towards an intellectual statement that poetry could make about the world. Even when they reverted to the personal, like T. S. Eliot in the Four Quartets and Ezra Pound in The Cantos, they distilled the personal into a poetic texture that claimed universal human significance. Herbert Read said of it, “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 (implied by the unfortunate term free verse) he/she seeks a stricter discipline of exact concord of thought and feeling.”

After World War II, a new generation of poets sought to revoke the effort of their predecessors towards impersonality and objectivity. In the English language modernism ends with the turn towards confessional poetry in the work of Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath, among others.

Source from Wikipedia