Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Conrad Aiken produced a remarkable variety of works, encompassing many different literary genres, among them short stories, novels, literary criticism, and a fascinating stream-of-conscious autobiographical essay. Any one of these works would mark him an important literary figure in the twentieth century. His greatest literary accomplishment, however, emerges in his poetry.
For many reasons, Aiken has been largely neglected by the academic and critical establishments. A quiet individual and extremely personal writer, he never fit conveniently into any particular poetic movement. Unlike such poets of his time as E. E. Cummings, he was not interested in challenging poetic form and line; he did not use poetry as a means of social comment, as did W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, nor was he a Symbolist in the tradition of T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats. Aiken is a more traditional poet; in many ways, he is a descendant of the Romantic movement. He built on the traditional form, using elements from a variety of styles to form his personal poetic search for meaning.
Aiken’s poetry challenges the imagination by presenting complex images and ideas that are not always readily accessible to the reader. Although his language is elegant and expressive, he seldom uses sustained descriptions to illustrate a theme. For the most part, his poetry is reflective rather than dramatic. Metaphors appear, are dropped, and reappear almost at random. This is...
(The entire section is 1571 words.)
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