George Roy Elliott

 

 

New Poetry and New America

[Auszug]

 

Text
Editionsbericht
Literatur

 

The idea of putting on harness is so rare in our new poetry, and so prominent just now in our national state of mind, that one accepts it here with gratitude. If Mr. Oppenheim could only learn what the word harness means he would be in a fair way toward writing, or helping others to write, some fine national poetry. But unfortunately he has no more notion than his colleagues of what the word really means. The race-horses of desire run through the whole course of his poetry bare-backed and without bridles. All thought of being harnessed in the sense of being controlled, either from within or from without, is expressly repudiated by the author again and again. In the code of Mr. Oppenheim and his colleagues, harnessing our desires means expanding them in such a way that, by an inexplicable transformation, our evil desires turn into good desires. The trouble lies here: our new poets are still so busy discarding the romantic periphery of Shelleyan idealism that they fail to realize how deeply their feet still stick in the romantic centre of it. They keep on extravagantly wooing nature and extravagantly repudiating human convention. The prevailing creed of anti-conventionalism is perhaps most striking in the poetry of Miss Amy Lowell, since she pursues, more open-mindedly than any other present American poet, the purely ęsthetic aim. She wishes to be tied by no dogma. But as a matter of fact she is tied to the dogma of anti-conventionalism. It is the single unifying theme which runs through all her volumes, providing the substance of some of her best poems (such as "Patterns") and of some of her worst. So fixed has the cult become! Mr. Frost, unconsciously but inevitably, gives the text of it in opening his "North of Boston: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." That something is surely the spirit of our new poetry. Its hatred of the walls of human convention has itself become conventional. It is no longer the spontaneous poetic outbreak of a century ago, voicing a spontaneous social outbreak, against dead conventions which had become intolerable. It is now a decadent cult-concept lingering on into a new age which, from that wreck of old conventions accomplished by the nineteenth century, is striving in agony to build human convention afresh. To chafe at conventions is always the prerogative of poetry, and of the poetic spirit in all men. But to chafe at conventions is one thing, and to ignore the reality of the convention-making power in human nature is quite another thing. Blindly to ignore that power at the present time, and to have no voice for it, simply means damnation for our new poetry from the standpoint of our new America.

The new poetry's anti-conventionalism joins hands with its cult of regeneration. For example, in the title poem of her charming volume "Myself and I," Fannie Stearns Davis identifies the unconventional self with the divine self. The volume as a whole is free from any conscious cult-purpose, and wishes to be just a tuneful record of the author's own moods. But so pervasive is the cult-spirit that the author is led by it, in giving the keynote of her book, to deny validity to the self which obeys convention, and to exalt the other self – the tendency in us to run wild after the impulses of nature – as "God's own spark in thee." The volume was published in 1913; next year, "God's own spark" set fire to the world, and the German chancellor threw a certain conventional scrap of paper into the flame. Here was sufficient symbol that the end of the age of anti-conventionalism was long over-due. But our new poets keep on celebrating the unconventional self as monopolist of the divine fire, and sole source of human regeneration. America has been shocked into a keen awareness that the passion for social regeneration, which America preėminently wishes to maintain, easily becomes degenerate when divorced from the controlling and divisive function of justice. But our American new poets have missed the shock, because they have been interposing between themselves and the war the buffer of a cult-idea long out of date. Before they can win national significance, they must regenerate their idea of regeneration.

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Nation.
A Weekly Journal.
Devoted to Politics, Literature, Science, Drama, Music, Art, Finance
Bd. 107, 1918, Nr. 2787, 30. November, S. 652-654.

Unser Auszug: S. 654.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).


The Nation   online
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Literatur

Brandmeyer, Rudolf: Poetiken der Lyrik: Von der Normpoetik zur Autorenpoetik. In: Handbuch Lyrik. Theorie, Analyse, Geschichte. Hrsg. von Dieter Lamping. 2. Aufl. Stuttgart 2016, S. 2-15.

Elliott, George Roy: Our Progress-Idea and the War. An Essay Concerning Recent Literature. Boston 1916.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008653878
URL: https://archive.org/details/ourprogressideaw00elliuoft

Hoeveler, J. David: The New Humanism. A Critique of Modern America, 1900-1940. Charlottesville 1977.

Newcomb, John T.: How Did Poetry Survive? The Making of Modern American Verse. Urbana, Ill. u.a. 2012.

Newcomb, John T.: The Emergence of "The New Poetry". In: The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry. Hrsg. von Walter Kalaidjian. Cambridge 2015, S. 11-22.

Underwood, Doug: Literary Journalism in British and American Prose. An Historical Overview. Jefferson 2019.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer