This book examines the most salient and misunderstood aspect of
twentieth-century poetry, free verse. Although the form is
generally approached as if it were one indissoluble lump, it is
actually a group of differing poetic genres proceeding from much
different assumptions. Separate chapters on T.S. Eliot, Wallace
Stevens, H.D., and William Carlos Williams elucidate many of these
assumptions and procedures, while other chapters address more
general theoretical questions and trace the continuity of Modern
poetics in contemporary poetry.
Taking a historical and aesthetic approach, this study demonstrates
that many of the forms considered to have been invented in the
Modern period actually extend underappreciated traditions. Not only
does this book examine the classical influence on Modern poetry, it
also features discussions of the poetics of John Milton, Abraham
Cowley, Matthew Arnold, and a host of lesser-known poets.
Throughout it is an investigation of the prosodic issues that free
verse foregrounds, particularly those focusing on the reader's part
in interpreting poetic rhythm.
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