Over the last hundred years American poets have assimilated a huge range of influences including jazz and blues, the new psychologies, advertising, film, and a variety of landscapes from Boston to the Rockies. And while recognising the importance of the great traditions in British and European poetry, for most poets it was essential to develop an original voice which was both individual and American.
In this course we will consider the range of responses to what it means to be human, from the contemplative poems of Wallace Stevens and his search for meaning in a world without God, to the startlingly direct work of Sharon Olds. For Elizabeth Bishop, travel, both literally and metaphorically, is central to her work and for John Berryman, forging poetry out of frustrated desire. Louise Glück, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2020, was praised for the way her poetry’s ‘austere beauty makes individual existence universal.’ Each of these poets brings a unique vision that enable us to see the world afresh.