American Poetry in the 1960's Analysis


(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

The kind of poetry approved by academia in the years after World War II was overwhelmed in the 1960’s by what scholar Charles Molesworth termed “a poetry of immersion” that entailed “an embrace of the raw and chaotic energies of contemporary life.” Frost’s death in 1963 was emblematic of the passing of an era, and although Frost’s poetry continued to draw a large, enthusiastic audience, so did Ginsberg’s, whose readings at universities were avidly attended by a new generation that also listened to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The proliferation of individual voices and styles was summarized by Beat poet Gary Snyder’s assertion that his peers were not searching for new forms but seeking “a totally new approach to the very idea of form.” Poets found that the comfort provided by the university was also a kind of confinement, and in the tradition of Walt Whitman, small, self- published journals and broadsides proliferated, and the popularity of readings in large arenas and small coffee shops, saloons, and city streets and on records and tapes restored the classic balance between the voice and the page.

Additional Information

(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Informative discussions of the poetry of the 1960’s include Charles Molesworth’s The Fierce Embrace (1979); Charles Altieri’s Enlarging the Temple: New Directions in American Poetry During the 1960’s (1979); The Craft of Poetry: Interviews from the New York Quarterly (1974), edited by William Packard; and Contemporary Poetry in America (1974), edited by Robert Boyers.