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

The Movement: A Re-assessment (part 2) Blake Morrison

IN 1959, looking back on his involvement with the New Lines poets earlier in the decade, Donald Davie made this interesting connection between the Movement's poetic manner and the refusal of its supposed members to acknowledge their part in it:


Nothing now strikes me as so significant or so queer about 'the Movement' as the way all of us who were supposed to be 'in' still spoke of it amongst ourselves inside invisible quotation marks. We ridiculed and deprecated the Movement even as we kept it going . . . Ours was writing which apologised insistently for its own existence, which squirmed in the agonies of embarrassment at being there in print on the page at all. In the interstices of our poems-in the metrical places wasted on inert gestures of social adaptiveness-'no doubt', 'I suppose', 'of course', 'almost', 'perhaps'-you can see the same craven defensiveness which led us, when we were challenged or flattered or simply interviewed, to pretend that the Movement didn't exist, that it was an invention of journalists, that we had never noticed how Larkin and Gunn and Amis had something in common, or that, if we had noticed, it didn't interest or excite us. (1)


Davie's comment reinforces my suggestion in the first part of this essay [see PNR 1] that we disregard the embarrassed protests of the New Lines poets and recognize the degree to which they did constitute a group. More importantly, it draws ...


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