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Series: Donald Allen and The New American Poetry 1945-1960, Part 5
October 3, 2017
Early critical reviews and studies of literature of the Beat Movement defined Beat literature narrowly as referring almost exclusively to the works of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and the very early New York Beats. Later “New American Poetry” developed into a broader term including a much wider range of writers beyond the early Beats. Now, one of the appeals of Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry 1945-1960 anthology was that it reprinted Ginsberg’s Howl for the first time in an anthology. And Allen included Jack Kerouac’s poetry, not yet well-known (Choruses from Mexico City Blues).
But Allen’s anthology considered the Beats, the Black Mountain Poets, the New York School, and the San Francisco Renaissance as all being part of the same movement. Through the years and with the regular issuing of anthologies and critical studies combining all the elements of the innovative literary movement, as opposed to the established and accepted canon, and with the huge increase in studies in the literature of the Beat Movement since the 1980s, the poets of all these factions: San Francisco Renaissance, Black Mountain, New York School, City Lights poets have all been jumbled up in many minds anyway as part of the Beat Movement. Thus writers such as Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, or Frank O’Hara, all of whom at one point or another distanced themselves from the early Beats, nevertheless today can be considered part of the Beat Movement as much as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Eckbert Faas even attempts to place the establishment poet Robert Bly among the New American poets and, thus, the Beats.
The Beats were always included in that label, the New American Poets . Values of the 1950s New Critics such as self-containment, tension, irony, metaphor, or complexity of form are not values held by New American Poets. Their poetry is as free as the lifestyle it reflects.
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Series: Donald Allen and The New American Poetry 1945-1960, Part 1
September 14, 2017
The popular British poet Roger McGough remembers that when Donald Allen’s revolutionary anthology The New American Poetry 1945-1960 with its famous red and white jacket design first appeared in Liverpool, “everybody in town who was interested in writing seemed to have a copy of it, and they were shouting poems out of it to one another across crowded pubs.”
It seems every member of the 1950s generation who was coming to awareness about literature and the Beat Movement remembers when or where he or she first encountered The New American Poetry. Hettie Jones, former wife of LeRoi Jones, in her memoir How I Became Hettie Jones, recalls her initial reaction to the appearance of The New American Poets, spending long hours absorbing the poems she already knew so well from having published them in Yugen. The anthology inspired her own writing. Similarly, Joyce Johnson, Jack Kerouac’s lover, wrote in Minor Characters of the day The New American Poets came out.
More recently, Ron Silliman in his blog considers, “Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry, unquestionably [to be] the most influential single anthology of the last century. It’s a great book, an epoch-making one in many ways. If you didn’t live anywhere near a location that might carry the small press books of the 1950s & early ‘60s, the Allen anthology was the place where you got to hear what all the fuss was about with the Beatniks, the New York School, the Black Mountain poets & so forth” (Silliman’s Blog 11 June 2007).
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Death and Pejorative Vision in Charles Olson, Part 1
August 29, 2017
If you are a poet or reader of ZigZag poetry you really need to know about Charles Olson. If you don’t know much about Charles Olson then welcome to The Scene where you are going to find out why, yes why Charles Olson matters, why his work matters to you.
This, then, is the first part of a 5 part series on Charles Olson. I will be posting this series on Monday, Wednesday, Fridays.
Charles Olson has been a powerful voice among ZigZag poets since the beginning, and by beginning I mean those days after World War II when everything changed everywhere with the radical poets, writers, and artists of the Beat Movement which started it all and has kept it going with all the spinoffs from the 1950s right up to now.
Because, look, Olson was acknowledged as the intellectual inspiration of The Movement of movements: the Black Mountain poets, the New York poets, the San Francisco poets—in other words, The Beats. With poets like Denise Levertov and Robert Creeley. Robert Duncan once said, “For all of the poets who matter to me in my generation Charles Olson has been the Big Fire Source. One of the ones we had to study.” And Robert Creeley affirmed, “Charles Olson is central to any description of literary ‘climate’ dated 1960.”
Olson’s great work, the one always studied in greatest detail, is his essay “Projective Verse,” first published in an obscure little poetry magazine in 1950. But this complex, detailed essay became the heart of the Olson theory. British poet and critic Davie said Olson’s projective verse essay was “the most ambitious and intelligent attempt by a poet of today to take his bearings and to plot his future course.”
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