Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois


Illinois Department of English Blog

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Welcome to the Department of English blog.



My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at vmahaffe@illinois.edu.


Monday, March 26, 2012

How Did Poetry Survive?: The Making of Modern American Verse


I was happy to learn today that the advance copies of Tim Newcomb's new book--How Did Poetry Survive?: The Making of Modern American Verse (University of Illinois Press)--have just recently arrived.

Here is the book description, pasted in from the Press's website:

"How a handful of little magazines reshaped the landscape of American poetry.

How Did Poetry Survive? traces the emergence of modern American poetry at the turn of the nineteenth century. American poetry had stalled: a small group of recently deceased New England poets still held sway, and few outlets existed for living poets. However, the United States' quickly accelerating urbanization in the early twentieth century opened new opportunities, as it allowed the rise of publications focused on promoting the work of living writers of all kinds. The urban scene also influenced the work of poets, shifting away from traditional subjects and forms to reflect the rise of buildings and the increasingly busy bustle of the city. Change was everywhere: new forms of architecture and transportation, new immigrants, new professions, new tastes, new worries.

This urbanized world called for a new poetry, and a group of new magazines entirely or chiefly devoted to exploring modern themes and forms led the way. Avant-garde "little magazines" succeeded not by ignoring or rejecting the busy commercial world that surrounded them, but by adapting its technologies of production and strategies of marketing for their own purposes.

With a particular focus on four literary magazines--Poetry, The Masses, Others, and The Seven Arts--John Timberman Newcomb shows how each advanced ambitious agendas combining urban subjects, stylistic experimentation, and progressive social ideals. All four were profoundly affected by World War I, and the poetry on their pages responded to the war and its causes with clarity and strength. While subsequent literary history has favored the poets whose work made them distinct--individuals singled out usually on the basis of a novel technique--Newcomb provides a denser, richer view of the history that hundreds of poets made."

The publication of a book like this one is the culmination of countless hours of research and writing, often conducted in solitude, and it can be something of a shock--albeit a pleasant one--to see the end product of all this labor as an object ready to go off into the world on its own. It is a really big deal in the life of a scholar. So congratulations, Tim, on the successful culmination of so much hard and productive work!

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