Commonwealth Poetry The International Voices

The International Voices

(Critical Explorations in Poetry)

As the British Empire spread to all corners of the world, so did the English language and literature. The empire faded after World War II, but what had become the international tongue and medium for creative writing survived and even prospered. English and its literature had long been enriched by speech and writing from Africa, the West Indies, Canada, India, Australia, and New Zealand. The dismantling of the Commonwealth neither subordinated nor silenced the distinctive voices that had arisen and that continue to arise. Traditionally, this body of fiction, drama, and poetry has been referred to as “Commonwealth literature” to distinguish it from English and American literatures. It is often still called Commonwealth literature for want of a better name, but as the old British Commonwealth recedes into history, so does a once-significant but now largely meaningless political term. These days, names such as “postcolonial literature,” “world literature written in English,” or “international literature in English” are more common. Some critics envision a time when all literature in English, including that of England and the United States, will blend into a single body, a time when no literary works will receive preference because of their national origins and all literature will be judged entirely on merit.

The circumstances in which poetry grew out of the one-time Commonwealth affected all aspects of the poetry’s development. Such effects...

(The entire section is 472 words.)