The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley
During the first half of the twentieth century, one of the most important modes of the American poetic tradition was rendered almost invisible to the reading world by the ascendancy of a group of critics and scholars who effectively supported only their own conception of poetry. Men such as Robert Frost who wrote in the familiar forms and meters of British poetry were celebrated by the New Critics and their followers, who were committed to a certain historical perspective; meanwhile, writers such as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Marianne Moore found it difficult to publish their poetry or find an audience much beyond their friends and one another. The influential, established journals and the university courses they shaped concentrated on a conception of poetic expression espoused by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren in the landmark volume Understanding Poetry (1938), which totally excluded writers who did not follow the specific principles that the book outlined. Then, in 1950, Charles Olson’s publication of the groundbreaking “Projective Verse” essay provided for the first time a “call to order” (as Robert Creeley describes it) that made it possible for poets who were not committed to an “academically sanctioned formalism” to feel a certain legitimacy about their ideas and approaches. Drawing on Pound’s pioneering essays, Olson at midcentury reclaimed or reintroduced a neglected but historically central strain of American...
(The entire section is 2050 words.)
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