In considering the style of poetry in English, we find, as we read widely in the different ‘schools’ of literary composition (which are treated in detail in Part 2), that various characteristics of style are apparent at different times in its history and in the works of individual poets. Most striking is the contrast between conventions of poetic language in the past and the comparative plainness of much contemporary writing. Analogies may be drawn with the visual arts and music: with the richly detailed paintings and the musical polyphony of the High Renaissance, for example, in comparison with the spare qualities of modern art and contemporary ‘serious’ music. It is important not to exaggerate what sometimes appears to be a rejection of artifice in modern writing. However, where stylistic features have been pared down in a minimalist utterance, it is difficult to argue that the style is as important as the subject and to identify that component for discussion.
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