Would Poetry Disappear? American Verse and the Crisis of Modernity

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Soon after 1890, American poetry entered a severe crisis that many diagnosed as fatal. Two powerful convictions—that the dominant genteel traditions of American poetry were moribund, and that no new directions were possible—drove many aspiring poets into other fields, or even (it was said) killed them off young. Poetry had lost its traditional cultural functions, and poets and readers found they needed to reimagine its uses in a world of million-selling novels, daily newspapers, and hit songs. This study describes the crisis between 1890 and 1910 as the crucial moment when American poetry first engaged with modernity. Facing their own obsolescence, young American poets of these years found they could use their anxieties and alienation as the basis for their modern poetics. Would Poetry Disappear? proposes a diverse cast of young poets—including Stephen Crane, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ellen Glasgow, William Vaughn Moody, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Francis Brooks—as the first moderns of American poetry. Without their pioneering struggles, 20th-century poetry could not have been so vigorously modern.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationColumbus
PublisherOhio State University Press
Number of pages312
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-8142-9035-4
ISBN (Print)9780814209585, 978-0-8142-5124-9
StatePublished - Apr 2004


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