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What are the characteristics of modern poetry?

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kutub | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

Posted January 17, 2010 at 8:29 PM via web

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What are the characteristics of modern poetry?

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 17, 2010 at 9:54 PM (Answer #1)

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The single most common characteristic of modern poetry (in the European and American traditions, at least) is probably open form and free verse, which is quite different from the fixed forms and meters of traditional poetry. A reader of high-brow poetry today sometimes has to look around a bit to find modern sonnets or even ballads or other poems with regular line length, stanza length, meter, and end rhyme.

A second characteristic might be called fragmentation, juxtaposition, intertextuality (reference to other poems or other writings), and allusion. For an example of all of the above, see T.S. Eliot's long poem The Waste Land.

Not all recent poetry is "modern," of course. If this is an assignment, you may want to consider putting two poems from different centuries side by side -- two love poems, one by William Shakespeare and another by e.e. cummings -- and seeing what sorts of differences emerge. 

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted May 23, 2010 at 10:15 PM (Answer #2)

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There are so many things to say on this subject. I would ask you to elaborate on the following points:

1. Modern(better call it Modernist) poetry is more predominantly intellectual/cerebral in its appeal, rather than emotive; Eliot and Pound would be the examples;

2. It is chiefly imagistic and involves symbolism, often private in nature; you can think of Eliot and Yeats;

3. It is often full of allusions of sorts, and inter-textual references; again Eliot is a great master;

4. It is impersonal, anti-romantic, innovative in attitudes and approaches to life; opposed to the Romanticist poetics of spontaneity and imagination;

5. It is often lexically, semantically and grammatically challenging for the uninitiated readership;

6. It rejects traditional versification and metrics to opt for free-verses and various experimental forms.


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