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This article is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

What is Traditional Poetry Neil Powell

THE WORD 'tradition' has been a preoccupation of literary criticism this century. In this essay, I shall deal with some ideas of traditionalism and modernism put forward by three influential critics, particularly as these ideas affect the creation and the criticism of poetry 'Now and in England'.

Graham Hough's Image and Experience (1960) has been called 'the apologia of the Movement' (by C. B. Cox and A. R. Jones in 'After the Tranquilized Fifties', Critical Quarterly, VI, 2, summer 1964, p. 121); but in at least one respect this is misleading. None of the Movement poets is mentioned in the book, except Donald Davie, who is quoted once, with disapproval, as a critic, and whose Articulate Energy is briefly acknowledged in the Preface. Image and Experience-which consists of lectures and essays written during the 1950s-is not so much an apologia as a prophecy. Hough himself remarks that 'Crystal-gazing as a critical method had better be reduced to a minimum', but he did foresee a return to the 'main highway' of English poetry; his book is one which sets the stage but does not introduce the protagonists, so the background needs to be exceptionally convincing.

It is the first section of Image and Experience, 'Reflections on a Literary Revolution', which concerns me here; and a key passage occurs at the end of the second sub-section, 'Imagist Poetry and the Tradition':

Then, if I were one of the morose depreciators of ...

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