Modernist Poets E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens, And T.S. Eliot Change The Face Of American Poetry

1800 words - 7 pages

Modernist Poets E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens, and T.S. Eliot Change the Face of American Poetry

Modernist poets such as E.E. Cummings, Wallace Stevens, and T.S. Eliot changed the face of American poetry by destroying the notion that American culture is far inferior to European culture. These and other American poets accomplished the feat of defining an American poetic style in the Modern Era by means of a truly American idea. That idea is the melting pot. Just as American culture exists as a mixture of races, beliefs, and ideas, the new American style of poetry exists as a mixture of old English styles with a new concept of the international style. Modern poets experiment with language, theme, and convention to "cleanse language and culture of old and worn-out meanings, and introduce to poetry what is American in thought, sensibility, perception, observation, and diction [. . .]. [T]hey become exemplary of the modern endeavors of consciousness itself" (McQuade 1241).

An important event that caused so many Modernist American poets to invoke the international style was the "expatriate immigration." Many American writers, artists, and musicians left for Europe, looking for new inspiration and fresh starts. Among those emigrating were Eliot, Pound, Hughes, Cummings, and Frost. Once in Europe, there writers were exposed to the new avant-garde art and poetry taking place there. At this time, the writers began to draw inspiration from and to imitate European writers. T. S. Eliot began to imitate the topics and tones of the French poets Charles Bauldelaire and Jules LaForgue, the latter for his bourgeoisie satire. Eliot's poetry written while in Europe displayed a satire that was foreign to American readers. Such is seen in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in which he mocks the shallow conversations about Michelangelo that are taking place among the wealthy women of the social gatherings. Pound was showing influence from the fourteenth-century Italian poets such as Guido Cavalcanti. In their works that follow their time in Europe, both Eliot and Pound display a hybridization of English and French and Italian ideas. Cummings began to imitate French Modernist poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Stephane Mallarmé. He also adopted an aesthetic based on the manifestos of French Surrealists and Dadaists, who "detached literature from referential meaning and linked it to experimental play" (McQuade 1235). Such experimental play is seen in Cummings' poem "[she being brand]" in which the creatively formed words and syntax give the image of a young man's thoughts, feelings, and actions upon driving his new car: "again slo-wly; bare,ly nudg. ing" (Cummings 15). The use of punctuation gives a vivid image of his thoughts as he carefully puts the stiff transmission into gear. Into another Cummings poem, "[in Just-]," we see more experimental play with the words to create the impression of the way excited children talk: "and eddieandbill come running from...

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