- New American Poetry, 1945-1960, The
- Donald Allen, ed.(1960)This landmark anthology, edited by Donald M(erriam) Allen (1912–2004), introduced Beat poets and other avant-garde post–World War II poets to a wide reading audience on its publication by Grove Press in 1960. It stands as one of the most influential—perhaps the most influential—poetry anthology ever published in the United States. Presenting the work of 44 young, groundbreaking versifiers, it “was one of the first countercultural collections of American verse” according to Wolfgang Saxon. The anthology offered a stunning variety of verse forms, from a disturbing, ancientsounding ballad by Helen Adam to robert creeley’s modernized ballad of Dr. Seusslike rhythms and rhymes scattered with profanities, from jack kerouac’s blues-based songs to allen ginsberg’s Whitmanesque long lines, from charles olson’s mythic pronouncements to gregory corso’s bizarre effusions of irreverent word play. Before its publication, most of the works included were known to only a limited audience through broadsheets, pamphlets, circulating manuscripts, poetry readings, and the like. Following its publication, several of the poets featured—John Ashberry, Creeley, Robert Duncan, lawrence ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Denise Levertov, Olson, gary snyder—have become so established in the postmodern canon that it may be difficult to imagine a time when they were largely unknown, marginal figures.Spotlighting what has been called the poetic equivalent of abstract expressionism in painting, The New American Poetry was received as a manifesto, and it revolutionized the course of poetry in the second half of the 20th century as much as Jackson Pollock revolutionized art. The anthology was the brainchild of its editor, Donald M. Allen. Born in Iowa in 1912, Allen became an editor at Grove Press in the mid-1950s, and he stayed with the press for 16 years. His long career would be devoted to bringing innovative poetry out of the shadows, and among other projects he founded the Grey Fox Press and the Four Seasons Foundation (the latter following an unsuccessful attempt to launch his own magazine of contemporary U.S. poetry, the Four Seasons Quarterly). But even at the start of his career with Grove, Allen worked with writing on the edge, editing books by Kerouac and others, and translating plays (including The Bald Soprano) by the absurdist Eugène Ionesco. One early project, in 1957, involved a special issue of Grove’s Evergreen Review, for which Allen collected work by poets associated with the “San Francisco Renaissance.” The special issue featured poems by Brother Antoninus (William everson), Duncan, Snyder, Jack Spicer—all of whom would later appear in The New American Poetry—as well as kenneth rexroth.In 1958 Allen began the project that would culminate in the publication of The New American Poetry. He set out to present the wide range of experimental poetry that had flourished since World War II. As Allen himself put it in the “Preface” to the anthology, he chose work united by “one common characteristic: a total rejection of all those qualities typical of academic verse.” Poetry from what had been the cultural and sexual margins would take center stage in Allen’s new anthology, and he would push conventional, Europeanized verse beyond the margins—the latter would have no place in his volume.During the next two years, Allen corresponded frequently with poets, editors, and literary agents. Some of the correspondence that he received appeared in the anthology in two closing sections containing “Statements on Poetics” and “Biographical Notes” that were supplied by the poets themselves. The role of this correspondence in shaping the final product leads critic Alan Golding to caution against regarding The New American Poetry as the work of Allen alone: “The collection is as much the product of multiple, interacting poetic communities and affiliations, of correspondence among contributors and editor, as it is the work of an individual editor himself. In this sense, The New American Poetry is very much a communal construction or shared enterprise.”Allen’s anthology as it appeared in 1960 consists of a “Preface,” the poems themselves, a section of “Statements on Poetics,” “Biographical Notes,” and a bibliography. In the preface, Allen identifies as the focus of his anthology an emerging third generation of postwar writers. In the first generation, he places William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, H. D., e. e. cummings, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens. These poets formed an “older generation,” but Allen notes that some of their most notable work was done after the war (including Williams’s Paterson, Pound’s Pisan Cantos, and H. D.’s Helen in Egypt). In the second generation, Allen situates poets who emerged in the 1930s and 1940s but reached artistic maturity after the war: Elizabeth Bishop, Edwin Denby, Robert Lowell, Kenneth Rexroth, and Louis Zukofsky. The third generation consists of those contained in the anthology, a younger group of little-known poets whom Allen hopes to vault to prominence. These younger poets have built on the achievements of Pound and Williams and have “gone on to evolve new conceptions of the poem. . . . They are our avant-garde, the true continuers of the modern movement in American poetry,” Allen says. Allen then divides his 44 third-generation writers into five large groups. He concedes that these groupings are overlapping and arbitrary and that they “can be justified finally only as a means to give the reader some sense of milieu and to make the anthology more a readable book and less still another collection of ‘anthology pieces.’ ” The first group is what we now know as the Black Mountain group. Allen represents this group with Olson, Duncan, and Creeley (who all taught at Black Mountain College); edward dorn, Joel Oppenheimer, and Jonathan Williams (who all studied at Black Mountain College); and Paul Blackburn, Paul Carroll, Larry Eigner, and Denise Levertov (who had no connection with the college but who published in the magazines Origin and Black Mountain Review). The second group contains poets of the San Francisco Renaissance. Here we find Helen Adam, Brother Antoninus (William Everson), Robin Blaser, Ebbe Borregaard, Bruce Boyd, James Broughton, Kirby Doyle, Richard Duerden, Ferlinghetti, Madeline Gleason, philip lamantia, Jack Spicer, and lew welch. The Beat Generation forms the third group. Allen includes Corso, Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Peter Orlovsky. Allen notes their close connections to both the “San Francisco Scene” and the Black Mountain group and also to individual poets such as philip whalen and Gary Snyder whom he includes elsewhere. The fourth group consists of the New York poets John Ashberry, Edward Field, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler. The grab-bag fifth group, as Allen explains, “has no geographical definition; it includes younger poets who have been associated with and in some cases influenced by the leading writers of the preceding groups, but who have evolved their own original styles and new conceptions of poetry.” Featured here are ray bremser, LeRoi Jones (who later changed his name to amiri baraka), Ron Loewisohn, Edward Marshall, michael mcclure, David Meltzer, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Gary Snyder, Gilbert Sorrentino, philip whalen, and john wieners.After explaining these groupings, Allen expresses the hope that the statements on poetics, biographical notes, and bibliography will lead back to the poems themselves, helping readers to achieve a fuller understanding of a “field [that] is almost completely uncharted.”The five-part grouping described in the preface is subtle and unintrusive. Each of the five sections is given a roman numeral in the table of contents, but no section name accompanies the numeral. There is a page break with just the roman numeral before each section, but no section numbers or headings appear over the poems in the main part of the book. Within each section, writers are organized chronologically by year of birth; within each writer’s selections the arrangement is also chronological, with dates of composition following most poems.As the firstborn member of the first group (Black Mountain), Charles Olson appears first. Olson stands as a titan—even without reference being made to his imposing physical stature—by virtue of his first position, the arresting majesty and authority of his poems (“I, Maximus of Gloucester, to You,” “Maximus, to Himself,” and “A Newly Discovered ‘Homeric’ Hymn,” “The Lordly and Isolate Satyrs”), and the fact that Allen devotes more space to Olson than to any other poet (38 pages for Olson, with Frank O’Hara second at 32 pages, and Allen Ginsberg third at 24 pages). When combined with Olson’s long essay on “projective verse” and his letter to Elaine Feinstein leading off and dominating the section of “Statements on Poetics,” Olson seems positioned as a new Homer, a poet/prophet whose voice looms over the entire anthology.Major poems in section I include Olson’s maximus poems and “The Kingfisher” and Duncan’s “A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar.” Several poems are metapoems, or poems about the art of poetry itself, thus eliding the distinction between the poems and the statements on poetics. Duncan’s “An Owl is an Only Bird of Poetry,” complete with line drawings, is one such example. Major poems in section II (San Francisco Renaissance) include selections from Ferlinghetti’s pictures of tHe Gone world (“Sarolla’s women in their picture hats” and “Dada would have liked a day like this”) and a coney island of tHe mind (“In Goya’s greatest scenes we seem to see,” “The wounded wilderness of Morris Graves,” and “Constantly risking absurdity”) and from Spicer’s “Imaginary Elegies, I–IV.” Notable for Beat scholars is Ferlinghetti’s “HE,” a portrait of Allen Ginsberg. The poem mixes apparently positive observations (“He is one of the wiggy prophets come back”) with negative (“He is a talking asshole on a stick”). Ferlinghetti elevates Ginsberg to the status of mythic and eternal poet while simultaneously caricaturing him as the writer of “kaddish” “whose every third thought is Death.” Ferlinghetti sprinkles the word Death throughout the poem with increasing frequency until it forms a rhythmic refrain and then concludes with Death deployed across the page more than 25 times.Section III (the Beat Generation) opens with 12 choruses from Kerouac’s mexico city Blues. Inhabited by rhythms as spirited as those in Kerouac’s prose, these song/poems are broken into short lines—some just one syllable—that visually reinforce the beat. Many of the 12 choruses grapple with Buddhist concepts as Kerouac searches for elusive Buddhist calm and detachment. For example, “219th Chorus” begins with an attempt at self-abnegation and ends still searching for stasis, balance, acceptance. In “225th Chorus,” “restless mental searching” continues despite an intellectual acceptance of Buddhist ideals; in the end, the speaker says, “I’ve lost my way.” In the closing lines of “230th Chorus,” the speaker remains very much of this world; his Buddhism does not prevent him from recognizing human suffering or from savoring the soft pleasures of physical contact.Next in section II is Ginsberg. The Ginsberg selections are as follows: “The Shrouded Stranger,” “Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo,” “Sunflower Sutra,” “A Supermarket in California,” “Howl,” Parts I and II, “Sather Gate Illumination,” “Message,” and “Kaddish,” Parts I, III, IV, and V. Ginsberg springs from these pages as a major poetic voice who has already produced multiple major works, the clear heir to Walt Whitman. First among the Ginsberg selections is “The Shrouded Stranger,” which sets the tone for his poems of then-startling sexual frankness. The speaker is a combination modernday equivalent of Wordsworth’s Old Cumberland Beggar, a Wordsworthian poet transforming the romantic and poetic tradition, and a fallen angel (“and on my back a broken wing”). Written in ballad form, this poem contains all the seediness of urban poverty and lonely people who are trolling for love, or at least sex.“Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo” is addressed to Kerouac. It derives its title from poem 38 by the Roman poet Catullus (circa 84 b.c.e.–54 b.c.e.). Cornificius was a friend of Catullus and a fellow poet. In Catullus’s poem, Catullus craves Cornificius’s pity and asks Cornificius to write a poem to cheer him up; the line that Ginsberg takes for his title translates as “Your Catullus is ill at ease, Cornificius.” In Ginsberg’s poem, he craves Kerouac’s pity and asks Kerouac not to be disgusted with him for his many lovers. “It’s hard to eat shit, without having visions, / & when they have eyes for me it’s Heaven,” he pleads. As he does elsewhere in the volume, editor Donald M. Allen refrains from supplying explanatory notes to even the most richly allusive, personal, or obscure poems. “Sunflower Sutra,” like the Kerouac poems, reflects the interest in Eastern religion that was shared by this circle of writers. The long, Whitmanesque lines reveal one strain of poetic influence, but another influence surfaces in the romantic poet and visionary William Blake. Ginsberg begins by describing a blighted urban hell to rival Blake’s London, a world in which nature has become mechanized. He then sees a lone sunflower; it is a dead and gray sunflower, but it triggers his memory of Blake, and with the visionary power of the poet Ginsberg, transforms the sunflower into an emblem of perfect beauty. In a triumph of the imagination, and of the pathetic fallacy, he even finds unity with it: “Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O my soul, / I loved you then!” In the closing lines, the unity spreads, with all of humanity celebrated: “we’re all beautiful golden sunflowers / inside, we’re blessed by our own seed & golden hairy naked / accomplishment-bodies. . . .”“Sather Gate Illumination” begins with the spiritual Ginsberg as a love song to his own soul but quickly moves to sexual ecstasy. Like Whitman’s, Ginsberg’s poetic world encompasses all, from mundane physical details to ethereal spirit. Yet Ginsberg can also jar the reader, as with this nakedly emotional line that forms a stanza in itself: “My grief at Peter’s not loving me was grief at not loving myself.”The Ginsberg section provides one of the clearest examples of Donald M. Allen’s brilliance as an editor. This is no haphazard assemblage of poems. Following “Sather Gate Illumination” with “Message” works masterfully to illuminate both poems—as well as the space between them. “Sather Gate Illumination” had ended with a revelatory pronouncement, arrived at after much groping and grieving, that whoever loves himself loves him (Ginsberg) as well since they are united by self-love. This epiphany, followed by the title “Message,” sets up an expectation that another prophetic statement will be forthcoming. Instead, “Message” offers nothing profound, no transcendent Buddhist detachment or acceptance, but rather a simple, personal longing for love. The speaker, too long alone in Paris, aches for the time two months hence when he will be home and able to once again look his beloved in the eyes. For now, the poem delivers the message that the eyes cannot.Corso appears third in section III. Corso receives a fairly generous 11 page representation, with these poems: “Birthplace Revisited,” “Poets Hitchhiking on the Highway,” “Zizi’s Lament,” “Uccello,” “But I Do Not Need Kindness,” “Dialogue-2 Dollmakers,” “Paranoia in Crete,” “A Dreamed Realization,” “From Another Room,” “Notes After Blacking Out,” and “marriage.” Corso’s gifts are on full display here, the product of an unruly, scrappy street urchin with a Keatsian love of language, a brilliant ear for sound, and a mind that is capable of summoning stunning juxtapositions of words and images.“Uccello” celebrates immortality achieved through art with reference to battlefield deaths and the Italian painter Paolo Uccello. In “Dialogue—2 Dollmakers,” Corso uses imaginative chaos and absurdity as creative forces. Two dollmakers converse, one suggesting absurd improvisations in doll making (a chair for the nose, a sink for the hair) while the other objects to such nonsense—but eventually the rationalist is swayed and joins in the fun, suggesting an aesthetic in which creativity is achieved through nonsense. In “From Another Room,” Corso refers to “dumb genius,” and in all of these poems he seems, like the surrealists, to have drawn his images from somewhere outside, beyond, or beneath the conscious mind. From where else could he have drawn the final stanza of “A Dreamed Realization”?: Life. It was Life jabbed a spoon in their mouths. Crow jackal hyena vulture worm woke to necessity —dipping into Death like a soup. Although Allen did not include Corso’s controversial pull-out poem “bomb,” he did include Corso’s other most-famous work, “Marriage.”Sharing Corso’s feel for stunning combinations of images is Peter Orlovsky, the final poet in section III. This is the “Peter” whom Ginsberg addresses in “Sather Gate Illumination,” and he is probably the object of Ginsberg’s longing “Message” as well. Allen includes one Orlovsky poem, titled simply “Second Poem.” Orlovsky displays not just a gift for metaphor (“life splits faster than scissors”) but also for alternate spellings that add humor and enrich possibilities of meaning. “Second Poem” concludes with Orlovsky speaking as the innocent poet of nature, emerging from the urban grime that coated Ginsberg and Corso’s verses to discover that “I was born to remember a song about love—on a hill a butterfly / makes a cup that I drink from, walking over a bridge of / flowers.”The sexual frankness of the Beat writers seeps into section IV (New York poets) through such poems as Frank O’Hara’s “You Are Gorgeous and I’m Coming.” O’Hara dominates this section, both in terms of page count and of long poems that appear to be major poetic statements. These long poems include “In Memory of My Feelings” and “Ode to Michael Goldberg (’s Birth and Other Births).” Goldberg, a painter, is also the subject of O’Hara’s humorous poem “Why I Am Not a Painter.” Corso had dedicated his poem “Marriage” to this same Mike Goldberg and his wife. Other notable works in section IV include Guest’s soaring “Parachutes, My Love, Could Carry Us Higher”; Koch’s long poem “Fresh Air,” and his short, amusing “Mending Sump,” a parody of Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”; and Ashberry’s “A Boy,” “The Instruction Manual,” and “ ‘How Much Longer Will I Be Able to Inhabit the Divine Sepulcher . . .’ ” Section V (no geographical definition) offers generous samplings of work by Whalen (16 pages), Snyder (16 pages), and McClure (18 pages). These three poets had strong personal connections with Beat Generation writers: When Ginsberg gave his first public reading of “Howl” Part I on October 7, 1955, at the Six Gallery, Whalen, Snyder, and McClure were the other readers on the bill (along with Lamantia).Notable works in section V include Whalen’s “sourdough mountain lookout” and the riproaring “Denunciation: Or, Unfrock’d Again”; Stuart Z. Perkoff’s “Feasts of Death, Feasts of Love”; a selection from Part III of Snyder’s Myths and Texts; Marshall’s “Leave the World Alone,” which, like Ginsberg’s “Kaddish,” gives a searing confessional account of a family drama involving madness and trauma; McClure’s “Hymn to St. Geryon, I” and “For Artaud”; and Jones’s “in memory of radio.” Jones’s “For Hettie” is a chilling lyric of a superstitious husband who is mistrustful of his pregnant wife, hettie jones.As section V moves to a close, we encounter more metapoems that blur the distinction between poetry and poetics. These include Loewisohn’s “The Stillness of the Poem” and the very last poem in the collection, Meltzer’s “Prayerwheel / 2,” and they help to bridge the five sections of poetry and the “Statements on Poetics” that form section VI. Meltzer’s poem completes the bridge by concluding with its own statement on poetics and the role of the poet:Is anything ever goneto the poet who works up everythingeventually? Somewhere, without mind,Love begins. The poet beginsto examine the dissolution of Love.The sea continues. We continuetalking, growing nervous, drinking,too much coffee.The fact that Allen gives poetic statements their own section number rather than relegating them to an appendix indicates the importance that he accorded them. The section begins with Olson’s thoughts on projective verse and then contains reflections by Duncan, Creeley, Levertov, Ferlinghetti, Spicer, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Schuyler, O’Hara, Whalen, Snyder, McClure, Jones, and Wieners. With the exception of Olson and Duncan’s essays, most contributions are a couple of pages or less. An excerpt from Fantasy 7004 makes clear Ferlinghetti’s differences from, and with, the Beat writers. He states that Beat writers tell him that he cannot be Beat and socially engaged at the same time. Ferlinghetti notes that Sartre, an inspiration for the Beats, insisted upon the artist’s engagement with social issues and adds, “that Abominable Snowman of modern poetry, Allen Ginsberg, would probably say the same. Only the dead are disengaged.” The “wiggy nihilism of the Beat hipster,” he continues, will lead to the death of the creative artist, as will disengagement or “non-commitment.” A brief statement by Kerouac from 1959 insists on the value of the irrational “because poetry is NOT a science.” He sees rhythm as the essence of truthful expression, whether in poetry or in “an endless one-line poem called prose.”In “Notes for Howl and Other Poems,” Ginsberg relates his own inspirations and processes of composition from 1955 on. Finding a poetic line that captures his breath preoccupied him from the start. He says that he began “Howl” with patterns of speech that he picked up from William Carlos Williams and that he followed “my romantic inspiration-Hebraic-Melvillian bardic breath.” Each line of “Howl” should be a single breath unit, he says, adding that “my breath is long.” Ginsberg mentions the vision of Blake that is recounted in “Sunflower Sutra” and recounts his experiments with long and short lines in “Supermarket in California,” “Cottage in Berkeley,” and “Kaddish.” He argues for rhythm of “Promethian [sic] natural measure, not in mechanical count of accent.” Ginsberg takes a swipe at academics and politicians who do not understand poetry and then concludes with an image of a gay creator dancing in eternity. Most of the biographical notes were written by the poets themselves. Many of the poets confine themselves to three or four lines of basic biographical fact. Corso takes two pages, relating the horrors of his boyhood from a broken home to a boy’s home to Bellevue. Prison follows, and Corso tells how he began to read serious literature and to write poetry while incarcerated. He speaks of the innocent 12-year-old Gregory whom he has lost. Following his release from prison, he takes a job in the Garment District; meets Ginsberg and is introduced to noninstitutional, literary society; embarks on a series of odd jobs; and finally begins to publish. Corso takes his story up to his time in Paris. After one conventional sentence that list his birth date, birthplace, and parents, Ginsberg’s brief self-penned biography proceeds to a series of place names, job descriptions, and career milestones. He leaves a smoky wisp of mystery behind him, saying that in 1959 he “returned to SF & made record to leave behind and fade awhile in Orient.”This final part of the book, “Short Bibliography,” consists of the following: I. Books and Broadsheets, arranged alphabetically by poet, giving press and date of publication along with titles; II. Anthologies in which the works of these poets appear; III. Recordings of readings; IV. Chief Periodicals, as well as others of value; V. Addresses of Publishers. Allen’s anthology drew significant attention to these unheralded new voices. Not all the attention was positive. The book upset the literary establishment. Critic John Simon wrote, “Mr. Allen’s anthology divides all gall into five parts.” Alan Golding encapsulates the long-term influence of Allen’s anthology:In terms of its defining “anti-academic” role in the 1960s anthology wars, its impact on later collection and editors, its importance for later poets, and its central place in most readings or structurings of postwar literary history, Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry (1960) is generally considered the single most influential poetry anthology of the post–World War II period.Golding goes on to say that the volume remains such “an anthological touchstone for alternative poetries that editors of avant-garde anthologies continue to invoke it as a model over thirty years after its publication.”In 1998 the New York Public Library devoted a six-month exhibit to the poetry “mimeo revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s. This movement was characterized by poets who duplicated their self-published work with the aid of mimeograph machines. A library press release observes, “It was Donald Allen’s watershed 1960 anthology The New American Poetry that stimulated the flood of poetry that led to the mimeo movement.” The press release singled out City Lights as “among the most important precursors” to the mimeo movement. The exhibit prominently featured Ginsberg’s selfpublished works.Marjorie Perloff states that The New American Poetry is “still acknowledged by all later anthologists as the fountainhead of radical American poetics.” Perloff identifies five new anthologies in 1993–94 alone for which The New American Poetry served as precursor. Perloff also points to the thenforthcoming publication of Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris’s two-volume Poems for the Millenium. She could have also included Carolyn Forché’s Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (New York: Norton, 1993).Perloff notes that The New American Poetry became so influential because there was a clear, acknowledged tradition that made Allen’s anthology stand in stark relief. That tradition was best exemplified by the chief rival to Allen’s volume, New Poets of England and America, edited by Donald Hall, Robert Pack, and Louis Simpson (New York: Meridian, 1957). The current lack of canonical consensus may prevent any future collection from having the impact that Allen’s did. “It is no longer possible, as it was for Donald Allen, to present readers with an anthology of the or even a definitive New American Poetry,” says Perloff. Information concerning exact sales figures and number of printings is considered proprietary and is therefore unavailable from the publisher. In addition, the number of times that Grove Press has changed hands since 1960 makes such data difficult if not impossible to obtain. A sales figure of more than 100,000 is generally accepted, but how much more than 100,000 could not be determined. Golding reports that within 10 years it had gone through 16 printings and 112,500 copies; by 1978 it reached its 22nd printing. In July 1999 the University of California Press became the publisher of The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, and the book remains in print.Allen originally intended to publish a revised edition every two to three years. That did not happen. In 1982 Grove published a revised volume called The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry Revisited, which Allen coedited with Charles Olsonexpert George F. Butterick. The Postmoderns introduces nine new poets, including three women, to the anthology: diane di prima, Anselm Hollo, Robert Kelly, James Koller, joanne kyger, Jackson Mac Low, Jerome Rothenberg, edward sanders, and anne waldman. Fifteen poets from the original volume no longer appear: Helen Adam, Ebbe Borregaard, Bruce Boyd, Ray Bremser, James Broughton, Paul Carroll, Kirby Doyle, Richard Duerden, Edward Field, Michael Gleason, Philip Lamantia, Edward Marshall, Peter Orlovsky, Stuart Z. Perkoff, and Gilbert Sorrentino. Allen and Butterick explain these choices in a new preface:Our purpose was to consolidate the gains of the previous anthology and confirm its predictions, by taking the best of the poets represented there, who have, by every indication, achieved a certain recognition. The present volume does not seek to be all-inclusive, or exclusionary. . . . Yet it does offer a sharpened focus to represent an era. . . .In The Postmoderns, Allen and Butterick removed the sectional divisions, subtle as they were. Authors appear in the table of contents ordered by year of birth. The new preface explains this choice, saying that the “earlier designations, if they were ever anything more than terms of convenience, have been rendered obsolete and unnecessary by the poets’ subsequent activities and associations. Postmodernism is a more encompassing designation, while still having its own precisions.” They observe that Olson first used the term postmodernism, meaning by it “an instant-by-instant engagement with reality.”In addition to this engagement and “instantism,” Allen and Butterick note other unifying characteristics of the writers selected; these include “formal freedom or openness as opposed to academic, formalistic, strictly rhymed and metered verse”; “a spontaneous utilization of subject and technique”; “freely maneuvering among the inherited traditions, time-honored lore, and proven practices”; an unflinching willingness to confront “previously held convictions and proprieties, while seeking a restoration of some very ancient ones”; and various matters of style and subject. Allen and Butterick altered and updated the selections of poets whose work had appeared in The New American Poetry. For example, seven previous Corso poems, including “Marriage,” have been dropped, but two new poems have been added. The Ginsberg section drops five poems, including “Sunflower Sutra,” and drops parts III, IV, and V of “Kaddish,” while adding Part III of “Howl,” “America,” “Kral Majales,” and “On Neal’s Ashes.” The arrangement of the back matter has also changed in The Postmoderns. In one comprehensive list, for each poet Allen and Butterick list biographical information (adding to the poets’ own accounts when necessary), poetry books published, bibliography, and secondary sources. For some authors, information also appears for recordings and “other” (such as non-poetry books that an author may have written). Finally, there is a general bibliography. The “Statements on Poetics” section has been removed since such items appeared separately in The Poetics of the New American Poetry in 1973. The Poetics reached back to include statements from Whitman, Pound, D. H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, Williams, H. D., and Zukofsky. Beat writers are represented by Ginsberg, who has eight selections included. Corso and Kerouac’s contributions have been dropped. However, statements appear from a number of figures who were allied with the Beat writers, including Dorn, Ferlinghetti, McClure, Snyder, and Whalen.Even before the curriculum and canon wars erupted in the 1980s and 1990s, even before it was published, The New American Poetry came under fire for its reifying, canonizing potential from one of its chief contributors, Robert Duncan. “He rejects a venture that he sees as dominated by aspirations toward taste-making, career-building, influence, and representation of a period—all of which, at least in retrospect, The New American Poetry could lay claim to,” explains Alan Golding.Eventually, Duncan allowed Allen to include his work when he became convinced of Allen’s seriousness of purpose. Subsequent detractors have not always been mollified, particularly with regard to “the anthology’s race and gender lacunae,” as mentioned by Golding.Ironically, then, an anthology that intended to present an alternative tradition became canonical itself, made mainstream by its own success. Widely imitated even by those who in the 40-plus years since its publication have found it insufficiently radical or inclusive, it retains a stature and influence unmatched by anything else of its kind.Bibliography■ Allen, Donald M., and George F. Butterick, eds. The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry Revisited, with a new preface by Donald Allen and George F. Butterick. New York: Grove, 1982.■ Allen, Donald M., and Warren Tallman. The Poetics of the New American Poetry. New York: Grove, 1973.■ “Background.” Donald Allen Collection Online. University of California, San Diego. Available online. URL: http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/testing/html/ mss0003a.html. Accessed September 3, 2004.■ Golding, Alan. From Outlaw to Classic: Canons in American Poetry. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.■ ———. “The New American Poetry Revisited, Again.” Contemporary Literature 39, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 180–211.■ Olson, Charles. Poet to Publisher: Charles Olson’s Correspondence with Donald Allen. Edited by Ralph Maud. Vancouver, B.C.: Talon, 2003.■ Perloff, Marjorie. “Whose New American Poetry? Anthologizing in the Nineties.” Diacritics 26, nos. 3–4 (1996): 104–123.■ Saxon, Wolfgang. “Donald Allen, 92, Book Editor of Bold New Voices in Poetry, Dies.” The New York Times on the Web. Available online. URL: http:// www.nytimes.com/2004/09/09/books/09allen.html. Accessed September 9, 2004.■ “Underground Publications Document Poetry’s ‘Mimeo Revolution’ in Exhibition at The New York Public Library.” Press release (November 26, 1997). The New York Public Library. Available online. URL: http://www.nypl.org/press/secret.cfm. Accessed September 3, 2004.Richard Middleton-Kaplan
Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. Kurt Hemmer. 2014.