Tradition and Experiment in English Poetry by Philip Hobsbaum - review by A. D. Moody

A. D. Moody

The Fifties Pint Poet

Tradition and Experiment in English Poetry


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This is an informal history of poetry in English from Piers Plowman to the major figures of the mid-twentieth century, namely Peter Redgrove, Francis Berry, Galway Kinnell and Patrick Kavanagh. Its argument is that the central tradition of English poetry is earthy, alliterative, colloquial, with a strong regard for structure and the claims of plot. Whole alien tracts of subject-matter have been assimilated to this tradition. But from time to time the mistake has been made of imitating the style and not just the content of foreign modes: this is experiment, and it goes against the tradition.

The basic form in English is that of Piers Plowman – or rather just the first half of it. For scholars have made the mistake of lumping together two quite distinct poems, the 'Visio' which is pithy, proverbial, local, alliterative and narrative, and the 'Vita' which is dismally dull and

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