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New Left Review I/16, July-August 1962

Gabriel Pearson

Romanticism and Contemporary Poetry

It is not just antiquarian to assert that any study of contemporary poetry must begin with romanticism. We are talking about English poetry; hence our points of reference will be English Romanticism. I am not concerned with direct historical antecedents. Rather with establishing an astonishing transformation of attitude towards the nature of poetry and of art in general. We are the heirs of this transformation: for this reason we find it difficult to grasp how far reaching it is. It is still working itself out in our own day. At this length treatment must be oblique and illustrative. I hope to show that the romantic conception of poetry is still, in essence, our own. That further, this is the only viable conception today. And beyond even this, that to miss the experience much modern poetry offers, is to risk impoverishing our experience in general. This is so ambitious a programme, that it has seemed worthwhile to group instances, actual contemporary poems, along side this piece. Against these my arguments can be checked. Further, if I fail to make my case, at least there will be poems to read, solidly assembled, as something more than typographical decoration.

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Gabriel Pearson, ‘Romanticism and Contemporary Poetry’, NLR I/16: £3

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