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History of American Poetry
Wordsworth has truly said that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions.” A Poem is a beautiful daffodil bloomed in the valley of Heaven in the form of words. It is actually the beauty of purest emotions of heart spread in vivid colours of joy, sorrow, romance, passion, pain, happiness and love.
History of Poetry on the world’s platform has passed from different phases of its origin, series of typical thoughts, new ideas, new discovery, revolution and then modern ideas and a new birth of thoughts in poetry. Literature in every language on earth has witnessed this phase of its existence and survival. Sometimes the period becomes too difficult for poetry to even survive which restricts its development in its new form, however sometimes the period proves itself to be golden age and so conducive for flourishing the flowers of Poetry in which it blooms in its full swings. American Poetry has also originated from the same source passing from all the way of its history to modern 21st century musical era.
The roots of American Poetry or the poetry of United States stretches to 17th century when Colonial period was prevailing in America. Early poets of this age were more or less under the influence of British poetry and literature. However there are 14 writers whom we can consider as initial American poets. Ann Bradstreet (1612- 1672) is one of the earliest women poets who wrote in English. Most of her works were based on religious and political themes, however she also wrote poems about family, her love for her husband and her home. Most of her works remained unpublished until 20th century. Edward Taylor (1645- 1729) is another poet who wrote his poems based on Puritan virtues in a metaphysical style. This Puritan ethic remained dominant in most of the works written during 17th and early 18th century. Samuel Danforth was the first poet who wrote first secular poetry. Phillis Wheatley, a slave, was one of the best known poets of her day whose poems were distinct American lyric voice of Colonial period. Her themes of poems moved around religious and classical ideas. Philip Freneau (1752- 1832) and Rebecca Hammond Lard (1772- 1855) were another poets of this period.
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was the significant writer of independent United States who wrote rhapsodic poems on the grandeur of prairies and woods. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Edgar Allan Poe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry David Thoreau, James Russell Lowell and Sidney Lanier were other notable poets of early and middle 19th century. These poets used poem as a tool to demonstrate their ideas about their landscape and traditions of their natives. ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ written by Longfellow, is the best example of this type of tradition who uses Native American tales.
Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson finally presented truly indigenous English language poetry of American Literature. Whitman wrote in long lines with democratic inclusiveness whereas Dickinson wrote in concentrated phrases and short lines and stanzas. Robert Frost is a leading poet of this period who followed strict poetic meter especially blank verse and lyrical forms. Edwin Arlington Robinson, Stephen Crane and Carl Sandburg are some other poets of this age.
During the end of 19th century and early 20 the century, two very famous poets rose on the stage of American Poetry and they were T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. They rejected the old traditions of poetry and Victorian effects, instead they experimented some new ideas in this form of literature. Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Hilda Doolittle etc are some other poets who followed the same path and new ideas in poetry.
During 1930s a group of Objectivists emerged with highly modernist thought school with poets like Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi and Lorine Niedecker. After World War II, a new generation of poets emerged with completely new approaches and practical life that included poets like Karl Shapiro, Randall Jarrell, James Dickey, Theodore Roethke, John Berryman, Robert Lowell etc. During this time some African American poets also raised such as Robert Hayden who played important role in opening a new horizon in poetry through his works and style.
Modern American poetry is distributed among so many traditions, school, number of groups and trends. However it has retained its fragrance of its original form and beauty!
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