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This article is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

One of the Two Poetries Marjorie Perloff


[British Poetry since 1970 stems in large part from the concerns of PNR and includes among its essayists a number of regular contributors to PNR. Because in the introduction the critical arguments of Professor Marjorie Perloff are contested, we invited Professor Perloff to review the book in the hope that a debate which has 'raged' obliquely 'between' 'the two poetries' might find in PNR a place in which to 'rage' a little more directly and, perhaps, a little more usefully, leading towards definitions and dialogue. Michael Schmidt]


WHAT, if anything, is distinctive about British poetry in the 1970s? How significant a departure is it from the poetry of the 1960s? Peter Jones and Michael Schmidt, the editors of this collection, which includes eighteen essays on various poets and movements as well as an anthology of poems, make only modest claims for the new decade. They admit, for starters, that the 1970s witnessed 'No major movements, no dominant new poets, no serious literary debate in the public arena', and 'no defining and unifying social issues with "imaginative content" '. They suggest further that 'The ascendancy of the academy over poets and poetry in the 1970s may . . . be seen as-at least potentially -a debasement of vocation'. Poets are not, of course, new-comers to the campus, but 'Today . . . the majority of poets are [teachers] ; and "being a poet" may qualify them for a post'. Accordingly, poetry comes to be ...


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