AMERICAN POETRY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Kenneth Rexroth

AMERICAN POETRY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In case anyone doesn't know Rexroth's stand on the establishment (his boot still searching out its neck), this survey will give an idea. His aim is to relate poetic history to the ""militantly mindless and murderous bureaucracy"" that developed alongside it, and he calls its tendencies as he sees them -- reactionary, elitist, populist, ""Populist-Socialist-Anarchist,"" Trotskyite (this applied to the Fugitive poets he's earlier labeled reactionary -- ?), etc. Along with politicizing the subject -- not a bad idea in itself -- he's also out to redress grievances: to champion the underdogs in academe (Laura Riding, Mina Loy, Stuart Merrill), blow the whistle on exploiters (""'Humanism' was a drive on the part of conservative and academic critics. . . to capture book-reviewing jobs from the followers of H. L. Mencken. . .""), and reallocate blame (""Faced with what the Establishment means by the real world, [Cummings] simply refused to grow up""). But no poetry is quoted or explicated. The grand revision is more like random contrariness and the hasty judgments and generalizations have nothing but Rexroth's reputation to rest on. We're still not certain what he means by either the Establishment or a good poem, but will it matter to that big market with pretensions to counter-culture?

Pub Date: July 1st, 1971
Publisher: Herder & Herder