English poetry now
In the last three decades of the 20th century a number of short-lived poetic groupings emerged along with a general trend towards an intensification of all kinds of style, subject, voice, register and form. There has also been a growth in interest in poetry from England’s ethnic communities, mainly the West Indian one. Performance poetry, that is poetry specifically composed for or during performance before an audience, has gained popularity. The poets, who emerged in this period, are Carol Ann Duffy (1955) , Andrew Motion, Craig Raine, Wendy Cope (1955), James Fenton, Blake Morrison, Liz Lochhead, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Simon Armitage, Kathleen Jamie, Glyn Maxwell, Selima Hill, Maggie Hannan, and Michael Hofmann.
The New Generation movement flowered in the 1990s and early 2000s, producing poets such as Don Paterson, Julia Copus, John Stammers, Jacob Polley, David Morley and Alice Oswald. There is also a group of revivalists and a number of independent and experimental poets among whom Dannie Abse, Martyn Crucefix and Jane Duran.
Carol Ann Duffy (1955), Scottish poet and playwright, she is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain’s poet laureate in 2009. Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), Selling Manhattan (1987), Mean Time (1993), and Rapture (2005), She writes on topics such as oppression, gender, and violence in an accessible and clear language.
Wendy Cope (1955), born in Kent, she was a primary-school teacher for fifteen years. After becoming Arts and Reviews editor for the Inner London Education Authority magazine, she turned into a freelance writer and television critic for The Spectator magazine.
Her three books of poetry are Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986), Serious Concerns (1992) and If I Don’t Know (2001). She has also edited several anthologies of comic verse.
In 2010 W. Cope was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Craig Raine (1944) taught at Oxford and followed a literary career. He became poetry editor at publishers Faber and Faber in 1981, and has been a fellow of New College, Oxford since 1991, retiring from his post as tutor in June 2010.
C. Raine is founder and editor of the literary magazine Areté and a frequent contributor. His daughter Nina Raine is a director and playwright and his son Moses is a playwright.
His works include a number of poetry collections The Onion, Memory (1978), A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1979), A Free Translation (1981), Rich (1984), History: The Home Movie (1994), and Clay. Whereabouts Unknown (1996). His reviews and essays are collected in two anthologies: Haydn and the Valve Trumpet (1990) and In Defence of T. S. Eliot (2000). A short critical-biographical study of Eliot, T. S. Eliot: Image, Text and Context, was published in 2007.
Ciaran O’Driscoll was born in Co. Kilkenny and lives in Limerick. He has published eight books of poetry including Moving On, Still There: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2001) and more recently Surreal Man, a chapbook of 21 poems (Pighog, 2006), and Vecchie Donne di Magione, a dual-language edition of poems in an Italian setting (Volumnia Editrice, 2006). In 2001, Liverpool University Press published his childhood memoir, A Runner Among Falling Leaves. He has won a number of awards for his work, among them the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. In 2007, he was elected to Aosdána.
O’Driscoll’s first writings were all inspired by his admiration for classical Modernists such as Eliot and St. John Perse. He has made good use of the traditional Modernist armoury – “the playing with repetition, for instance, the testing of pure emotion against irony, the liking for free verse and its expansiveness. Having said that,” he notes, “it is also true that if I write a free verse poem, I always tend to try something in stricter form after, by way of developing an inclusive repertoire.”
But as he developed into a person of social and political awareness he found the language of Modernism inadequate for his purposes. O’Driscoll has written: “Having absorbed so much of the purity of Modernism’s attitude, I found it difficult and a challenge to write poems that made political or social statements, and the obliqueness that ensued often resulted in readers failing to see anything political or social in a poem that I thought had serious, though undercurrent, designs on the world and its wrongs. The only release from this dilemma was anger: when it reached a certain pitch, rage broke through the constraints and actually found imagination in another form – the satirical – waiting to help on the other side. This, I believe, is the case with poems such as ‘A Gift for the President’, ‘Great Auks’ (I wrote the first draft in a fit of silent apoplexy, on a train) and ‘Please Hold’.”It could be said that just as some writers use humour as an antidote to despair Ciaran O’Driscoll uses humour to make expressions of anger more palatable. But naturally he has produced poems from other sources too:
“ ‘Anatomy of the Copper Man’, however, is different in that it didn’t originate in anger but in a compulsion of a psychological and personal nature; more a case of finding an ‘objective correlative’ for something obscure and intimate – though having said that, it is also possible to see a ‘state of the nation’ aspect to the poem (it was written at the height of the 1980s Troubles).
“ ‘Magritte’ is a poetic challenge I set myself, having watched a video of his work and life: an attempt to capture, in a short space of words, the feeling I got from watching it.
“ ‘Lollipop Lady’ brings my journey in poetry up to date, in that I am now writing an occasional poem bearing in mind the Open Mic, which has very different values from the Modernists. I have written a few ‘crowd pleasers’, as a friend of mine somewhat disparagingly put it, and ‘Lollipop Lady’ won the Slam at Cuisle, Limerick City’s Poetry Festival, in 2005. Writing this kind of poem, however, is a way of addressing the gulf between poetry and audience; and crowd pleasers though they may be, I apply poetic craft in writing them. ‘Lollipop Lady’ is an ode to a humane institution, a tongue-in-cheek love poem, and something of a send-up of rock-song jargon.”
Will Stone was born in 1966 and lives in Suffolk. He is a poet and translator and holds an MA in Literary Translation from the University of East Anglia. His translation of Les Chimères by Gérard de Nerval was published by Menard Press in 1999. He has contributed as editor, translator, essayist and photographer to a new translation of the novel Bruges-la-Morte by Belgian symbolist poet Georges Rodenbach, published by Dedalus in 2005. Further translations of poems by Baudelaire, Nerval, Verhaeren, Rodenbach and Egon Schiele have appeared in various journals including Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry Salzburg, Agenda, The International Review and Pretext. His reviews have appeared in The TLS, The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The London Magazine, Poetry Review and PN Review. A number of his translations were selected for the Tate anthology of German Expressionist poetry Music While Drowning in 2003, the title being taken from a poem by Schiele. He has published several pamphlet collections of poetry as well as an essay on poet/singer-songwriter Nick Drake. Future projects include a collection of Belgian Symbolist poets in translation and a prose work set in Belgium.
Carol Ann Duffy (1955),was the first Scottish poet and playwright “woman” to be appointed Britain’s poet laureate in May 2009. Her poems – Standing Female Nude (1985); Selling Manhattan (1987); Mean Time (1993); and Rapture (2005) – mainly deals with issues such as oppression, gender, and violence, and are written in an accessible language.
The poem Lost Post, written for the last First World War British soldier’s funeral, Harry Patch, moves from Wilfred Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum est, to underline the tragedy of war. The poet explains: “The poem is a tribute and blessing, even an apology, on behalf of poetry and all poets.” In the poem she imagines what would have happened to those millions of soldiers if they had returned their homes and loved ones.