Some writers compose poems in order to expose injustice or shatter enemies — an overbearing boss, an insensitive lover, an institution abusive of power, and so on. Such impulses remain natural and in large part crucial to the making of poems, simply because art is never purely an aesthetic enterprise stripped of real-world struggles or personal crises. Scholar Morse Peckham, in fact, interpreted the entire Romantic movement in terms of what he called ‘cultural transcendence’, the drive of German, British, and American artists to critique culture in order to overcome its stultifying claims on the imagination.1 Still, in increasingly ‘tell all’ Anglo-American cultures — as well as in the aftermath of confessional and Beat poetry, with their forceful representations of personal trauma and social ills — the compulsion of many poets to ‘rage against the machine’, to reveal corruption, or to bear witness to personal or public sufferings, may have reached unprecedented heights. These kinds of urges toward subject matter often leadwriters away from poetics and into polemics, and this shift can seriously compromise one’s ability to create complex verse.
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