Movement Poets Summary


The Movement consisted of a group of like-minded English poets, loosely associated together in the mid-1950’s. Their intention was to redirect the course of English poetry away from the neo-Romantic Symbolist and Imagistic poetry of William Butler Yeats and Dylan Thomas. At the same time, they also disavowed the modernist poetry of the 1920’s and 1930’s, represented by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and W. H. Auden. Instead, they sought to place English poetry back into the tradition last represented by Thomas Hardy, of formal verse and accessible meaning, modestly covering everyday experience.

Of this group of poets, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) emerged as the most popular. His poetry did a good deal to re-engage poetry with a more popular audience. Other poets, such as Kingsley Amis (1922-1995) and John Wain (1925-1994), made wider names for themselves as novelists, especially as part of the group known as the Angry Young Men. Many of the group were academics, and their critical writings helped shape the course of British literature for the next two decades.


Poetry in England in the first part of the twentieth century had been subject to various conflicting movements. Before World War I, it was dominated by Georgian poetry, a formal, romantic poetry that was the legacy of Victorian poets such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold. It tended to be nostalgic and rural. The continuing exponent of this formal and traditional verse in England was Hardy (1840-1928). He wrote on everyday events and meetings, often with a gentle irony or sadness. His poetry made philosophical references at a general level but did not engage directly with issues of the day. It was retiring and understated, lyrical, and mellifluous, using traditional imagery and verse forms. The poetry of Yeats (1865-1939), an Anglo-Irish poet, also was as influential. Yeats had developed a private mythology but could write politically as well. His imagery was much more symbolic and his tonalities were much more varied and original than those of Hardy.

The trauma of World War I and the new awareness created by psychoanalysis and modern science produced a quite different movement in literature, usually termed modernism. The poetic exponents of modernism were at odds with the Hardy-Yeats axis of Romanticism, and they sought to produce a much more loosely formed and structured verse that could at the same time capture everyday speech and the symbolic disassociation felt by members of the fractured postwar society. The leading exponent of modernism...

(The entire section is 410 words.)