4.02.2009

A New Anthology?

Picking up from the comments to my previous post about The Voice that is Great Within Us:

If we start in 1914, we lose Eliz. Bishop, who was born in 1911, as well as Chas. Olson (1910) and Th. Roethke (1908). Then there were a bunch of American poets born in 1923 - 1926 who have always seemed to me to form a generational group: W.S. Merwin, Donald Justice, James Dickey, Anthony Hecht, Denise Levertov, Kenneth Koch, Jack Spicer, A.R. Ammons, Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, David Wagoner, then 1n 1927, John Ashbery. It's remarkable how many of those were born in 1926 alone.

So, many anthologies of modern American poetry begin with Whitman and Dickinson as founding figures, and go on from there. Anthologies of Contemporary American poetry often begin with Pound, Williams, and Eliot, the generation that we'd be cutting off in favor of some new beginning. What would that beginning look like? Lowell and Bishop, even though Bishop comes too early?

The first poet in the Carruth anthology to be born in 1914 is John Berryman, perhaps not an exemplary founding figure, but an interesting one. David Ignatow, Weldon Kees, William Stafford, and Randall Jarrell, are also born in 1914. I lay out all these names and dates in order to discover whetehr there might be some generational logic that would allow us to begin our anthology less arbitrarily than merely picking a date. I'd be inclined to go back and pick up Olson, Bishop and Roethke myself, but I'd be interested to hear what others might do with this chronology.

5 comments:

Henry Gould said...

This is a very interesting project - but the 68 yrs seems sort of arbitrary. I am guessing Carruth started with Frost because Frost led American poetry into the 20th century (as the oldest, earliest, that is). I wonder what a comparable stylistic or chronological watershed would be, for the new anthology?

Joseph Hutchison said...

I'm sure you're right, Henry. Carruth published in 1970 and was probably trying to account for all the major poets whose work had been influential for the first 70 years of the 20th century; in which case Frost makes perfect sense as the first poet, especially since he didn't publish his first book until 1913.

Like all projects, this one would depend on the aim. We could either update/extend Carruth's anthology through the century's end; cover the period from 1970 on; or take some subtler approach having to do with "watersheds"—schools, stylistic advances, etc.

What if the point was to cover 1950 through 1999? Who were the major established poets then, the most influential; who were established and influential by century's end; and who were at century's end just beginning but already writing excellent poems? Then birth dates would be less important; we could reach all the way back to Williams if we wanted to. Hmmmm....

Joseph Duemer said...

WCW might be a good anchor, as the most American face of Modernism and as someone to whom many younger poets looked for guidance.

Joseph Duemer said...

Here is a potential principle for limiting the range to something manageable: include no poet under forty years old. There are too many of them and nobody can sort them out sensibly, I'd argue, but maybe I'm just out of touch. Besides there are several anthologies out there dominated by youngsters, and the magazines a chock a block with 'em.

Mairi said...

I think Joseph is right about the under forties. There's no reliable way of winnowing them. Thanks for the list. In the absence of a table of contents it's enough for me to be getting on with.