Renaissance

 

I MAKE truce with you, Walt Whitman—    
I have detested you long enough.    
I come to you as a grown child    
Who has had a pig-headed father;    
I am old enough now to make friends.    
It was you that broke the new wood,    
Now is a time for carving.    
We have one sap and one root—    
Let there be commerce between us.

Ezra Pound, A Pact (1913)

Meanwhile, American poetry was enjoying a renaissance. New poets with new approaches to verse began to pop up: Ezra Pound, Vachel Lindsay, Robert Frost, Carl Sandberg, Edgar Lee Masters, etc.

Pound had run off to England and a wider world, but the others remained staunchly American, each in his own way. Whereas in Britain and Europe a literary revolution would be sparked by the coming war, change was already afoot in America. Classics such as Miniver Cheevy (1910), Chicago (1914), Mending Wall (1914), and Spoon River Anthology (1914-15) bear witness to this.

With war, more young innovators appeared, and established poets such as W. B. Yeats and D. H. Lawrence succumbed to the winds of change. A generation of “war poets” appeared—and quickly vanished. By the time Robinson Jeffers was working on the beginnings of Tamar and accompanying work, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), The Road Not Taken (1916), Grass (1918), Dulce et Decorum Est (1920), The Second Coming (1920–21), Queen-Ann’s-Lace (1921), The Waste Land (1922), and other poems had already established a new epoch in English-language poetry.

Jeffers expressed little interest in the innovations of his contemporaries. If anything, he denounced such innovations as mere novelties. Even Yeats, whom his wife Una revered, received little or no praise from Jeffers. His respects were ever paid to the past. He resisted the revolution, but he would ultimately succumb, albeit on his terms.

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