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By Neil Roberts

Compiled and edited by way of Neil Roberts (Professor of English Literature at Sheffield University), A better half To Twentieth-Century Poetry is a powerful anthology of forty-eight scholarly essays drawn from a wide selection of authors and academicians learning the advance of poetry in twenty English-speaking nations over the past century. From context of the poets and their paintings; to the repercussions of the post-colonial age; to the expanding voice of girl poets; in addition to an total tendency in the direction of self-consciousness and self-reflection; A spouse To Twentieth-Century Poetry bargains expert and informative insights gleaned from as common and various a bunch of individuals because the authors of the memorable poems themselves.

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His ‘The Serious Artist’ (1913) opened as a latter-day Defence of Poetry and this was a role Pound never relinquished, as later titles such as ‘How To Read’, ABC of Reading and Guide to Kulchur testify. Pound always had a syllabus to hand, listing Homer, Catullus, Dante, Cavalcanti and Arnaut Daniel, Villon, Flaubert, Corbière and Théophile Gautier, Fenollosa and the Chinese poets Lui Ch’e and Li Po as a bare minimum. And to these ‘how to’ letters and handbooks for apprentice poets he was to add primers on economic democracy and Confucian ethics as his sense of ‘civilization’ broadened and the case for the artist’s importance to the public realm appeared more desperate.

As we have suggested, twentieth-century ‘modernism’ as a category emerged as a belated description of a sometimes violently heterogeneous and unstable set of initiatives. Any distinction, furthermore, between an earlier and later modernism in the terms Armstrong chooses, proves unconvincing. While there were European modernisms (notably futurism) which did indeed cultivate a radical break with the past, the Anglo-American variety was haunted by its relationship to tradition. Ezra Pound’s rallying cry of ‘make it new’ precisely emphasizes the possibilities for reconstruction and ‘translation’ rather than the destructive joys of Dada or the Italian futurist Marinetti’s glorification of modern technology and war.

One man’s modernism was one culture’s preferred modernism and another modernist’s or other culture’s retrograde traditionalism. There is therefore no avoiding the now common understanding of ‘modernism’ as entailing a network of ‘modernisms’; less a united revolution or homogeneous orthodoxy than a heterodox weave of anticipations, traces, tensions and contested positions. In this sense modernism is a script, written over, revised and above all ‘edited’: in the re-making of tradition as in the composition of individual poems and in the promotion, publication and reception of poets, poems and lines of 22 Peter Brooker and Simon Perril verse – a process involving obstruction and suppression as much as a coming into print and into view.

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