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English Literature

What does it mean to be an American? Every person in the United States might answer that question differently, but there are certain characteristics that may be shared. What about American poetry? In this article, we will explore the rich diversity and distinctive features of American poetry, including the history of American poetry, notable movements, important themes, and primary contributors.

Summary of American Poetry

American poetry is a broad categorical description that encompasses the poetry of the United States of America. Generally, American poetry refers to a period of time that begins with the first colonists to the present day. However, it is important to acknowledge that Native American oral traditions included art forms similar to poetry long before European colonists inhabited the continent.

Features of American Poetry

Here, we are going to cover the distinct features of American poetry and trace its development from the early colonial period to the modern-day to paint a broad picture of American poetry.

Poetry MovementDatesThemesNotable Poets
Colonial Poetry1550s-1860s
  • Construction of an American identity
  • Religious values
  • Political rhetoric during the War of Independence
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Transcendentalism1820s-1850s
  • Optimism about humanity
  • Appreciation for the natural world
  • The unity of humanity with the natural world
  • Rejection of societal conveniences
  • Support for humanitarian issues
Modernism1890s-1950s
  • Radical stylistic departures from previous poetry movements (i.e., Romanticism and Victorian poetry)
  • Use of clear, concise imagery
  • Free-flowing verse
Harlem Renaissance1910s-1930s
  • Development of African American identity
  • Racial discrimination in the United States
  • The myth vs. reality of life in America for Black Americans
  • Langston Hughes
  • Claude McKay
  • Anne Spencer
  • Countee Cullen
  • Gwendolyn B. Bennett
San Francisco Renaissance1950s
  • Experimental approaches to form and style
  • Counterculture ideals
  • Writing in the idiomatic style of average American people
  • Kenneth Rexroth
  • Robert Duncan
  • Philip Walen
  • Donald Allen
Beat Poetry1950s-1960s
  • Rejection of consumerism
  • Sexual liberation
  • Authenticity and spontaneity
  • Appreciation for the natural world
  • Non-conformity to an American they perceived as militaristic and authoritarian
  • Alan Ginsberg
  • Jack Kerouac
  • Diane DiPrima
  • Bob Kaufman
Contemporary Poetry1960s-present
  • Rise of spoken word poetry, known as slam poetry
  • The creation of institutions to give poetry a stronger voice in the American public such as the Poet Laureate positions

What is the history of American Poetry?

As previously mentioned, American poetry is understood to have originated with the first European colonists in the American continent and persists to the present day. Given that European colonists began arriving in the 1400s, this means we have over 600 centuries of poetic history to cover! Let’s start at the beginning with Colonial Poetry.

Colonial Poetry (1550s-1860s)

Colonial poetry in the history of American poetry refers to verses written by the European colonists on the American continent. From the beginning of the European colonization of America, the colonists would attach verse poetry in their letters back to their families and friends across the pond. Much of the published writing during this period was informative prose pieces that painted a picture of the new territories for a European audience. Poetry from the early colonial period in the 16th-17th centuries tended to be verses interspersed in longer prose pieces that had a similar goal: to inform their target audience. Much of this poetry was also religious, given that many of the first colonists were religious settlers.

In the United States, the Puritans were religious colonists who arrived in the mid-1600s to settle in what is now known as Massachusetts. Puritan poets wrote about religion and family life. Poet Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) wrote about both of these themes; her most famous poem 'To My Dear and Loving Husband' (1678) explores the love she feels for her husband.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, popular poetry began to reflect the political fervor of the American War of Independence. Poetry became a political as well as an artistic form of expression as poets recognized the extraordinary times they were living in and the power of their pens. During the American Revolution, poems of this time extolled the values of independence and freedom while valorizing American war heroes, such as in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s (1807-1882) 'Paul Revere’s Ride' (1860) that commemorated this event of the War of Independence.

Why would poets take an interest in wartime? How might the content of poems during this time change?

The American War of Independence or American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) was fought to free the American colonies from British rule. The Americans succeeded, and The Treaty of Paris (1783) formally ended the war and secured American independence.

Transcendentalist Poetry (1820s-1850s)

Transcendentalism in America took root thanks to poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) in the 19th century. Transcendentalism was the American response to English Romanticism in literature, which featured significant poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. However, transcendentalism represented the development of a distinctly American approach to poetry.

Through transcendentalist poetry, this new, American voice reflected:

  • optimism about humanity.
  • appreciation for the natural world.
  • a belief in the unity of humanity and the natural world.
  • a rejection of societal conveniences.
  • support for humanitarian issues.

Modernist Poetry (1890s-1950s)

Heading into the 20th century, poets established a truly American voice in poetry through Modernism. Modernism arose from the Symbolism movement that swept the literary and art worlds of Europe. Modernist writers sought to radically change the way poetry was written. This happened by rejecting the formal conventions and strictures of poetic structure as well as the notion of objectivity in poetry.

Symbolism is a late 19th-century European movement that began with Charles Baudelaire's 'Les Fleurs du Mal' (1857). The movement features poetry and art that focuses on symbols or images to express emotions, abstract concepts, or the poet's mental state at the time of writing.

Out of the modernist movement came Imagism, which challenged the conventional forms of Victorian and Romantic poetry. Imagists used free verse poetry to paint clear, concise pictures with words. The poems were meant to follow a rhythm that mimicked musical phrases rather than the rigid tempo of a metronome. Poets Ezra Pound (1885-1972) and T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) are two of the quintessential modernist poets in America. Eliot's 'The Waste Land' (1922) is a defining work of modernist poetry. Modernism remained popular until the 1950s, however, post-World War II, modernism waned in popularity due to the rise in Postmodernist poetry.

Harlem Renaissance (1910s-1930s)

The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that developed during the 1920s and 1930s and saw Harlem, New York, as the cultural center for African American literature, art, music, and politics. One of the foundational written works of the Harlem Renaissance was the poetry collection, Harlem Shadows, published in 1922 by the African American poet Claude McKay (1889-1948). Other important poets of the movement are Langston Hughes (1901-1967) and Anne Spencer (1882-1975).

The poetry developed during the Harlem Renaissance emphasized African American cultural backgrounds and a new poetic style known as Jazz Poetry, meaning poems written with the rhythmic and improvised feel of jazz music.

Simultaneously, poets of the Harlem Renaissance sought to challenge the narrative presented by poets of the past who established America as a land of freedom and opportunity for all. Harlem Renaissance poetry confronted racism and the discrepancy between the American dream and American reality. In his sonnet 'America' (1921), Claude Mckay describes the oppression and violence he faces in America. He writes that, despite his bitterness, he loves this country which has taught him to be strong in the face of hatred, but that he foresees a day when the might of America might crumble and disappear.

San Francisco Renaissance (1950s)

During the 1950s, an American poetry movement sprang up on the West Coast, known as the San Francisco Renaissance. Stemming from a poem anthology by Donald Allen (1912-2004), known as The New American Poetry (1945-1960), the San Francisco Renaissance emphasized experimental approaches to form and style and a thematic prevalence of counterculture ideals. As a result, San Francisco became a cultural center for avant-garde poetry. The San Francisco Renaissance shares many characteristics with Beat Poetry and is associated with this similarly countercultural movement.

Beat Poetry (1950s-1960s)

Reflecting the hippie surge in the 1960s, Beat poetry was a movement that emphasized formless, raw poetry reflective of the cultural zeitgeist. Beat poets were often part of counterculture movements, and their poetry emphasized anti-establishment and anti-consumerist values.

The Beat movement valued:

  • a rejection of consumerism.
  • sexual liberation.
  • authenticity and spontaneity.
  • an appreciation for the natural world.
  • non-conformity to an image of America they saw as militaristic and authoritarian.

Notable poets of the Beat movement include Alan Ginsberg (1926-1997) and Jack Kerouac (1922-1969). Ginsberg's 'Howl' (1956) weaves a story drawn from the real-life experiences of Ginsberg's friends who were also members of the Beat generation. Ginsberg wrote frankly and openly about topics such as drug use, sexual practices, and political radicalism, and the poem prompted an obscenity trial given its controversial content.

Contemporary American Poetry (1960s-present)

In modern America, poetry has undergone various transformations and evolutions to adapt to our newly digitized world. Beat poetry has seen a revival, particularly in the form of spoken word performances. These performances and competitions are known as slam poetry, and prominent poets are Alix Olsen (1975-present) and Saul Williams (1972-present).

This poetry has also become instantly accessible to anyone with a computer, as online poetry journals, anthologies, magazines, and forums allow anyone to publish their poetry on the internet. The District of Columbia and 46 U.S. states have an established Poet Laureate in addition to the Library of Congress’s Poet Laureate. The role of the poet laureate is to compose poetry about the times we live in and to bring poetry to the forefront of the American public. The position was established in 1985, and there have been 23 Poet Laureates of the United States including our current Laureate, Joy Harjo.

While this article doesn’t cover every movement in the history of American poetry, these highlighted periods provide a glimpse into the vast breadth of ways in which poetry developed and changed over the years in the United States. Now, let's have a further look at who American poets are.

American Poetry, an illustrated map of the United States, StudySmarterAn illustrated map of the United States composed of books, pixabay.com

Who writes American Poetry?

This question seems to have an easy answer: Americans write American poetry! But, of course, America is a melting pot for different cultures. Here, we shall examine different perspectives that are prominent in the history of American poetry.

History of African American Poetry

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), born in Africa and brought to the United States as a slave, was the first African-American to publish a book of poetry in the United States of America. African American poets in the 19th century, such as Frances Watkins Harper (1825-1911), wrote abolitionist poems that called for an end to slavery.

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) is one of the most prolific writers and scholars of the 19th century, and his poems often centered on Black culture and identity in the United States during this period. As we previously discussed, the Harlem Renaissance in the early 20th century was a poetry movement that began in Harlem, New York City, that is widely considered in the present day to be a Golden Age for African American art, including poetry. In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry; she was the first African American poet to receive the prestigious award.

In the present day, African American poets write from various perspectives and may draw upon the rich history of African American poetry in the United States. At the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden in 2021, Amanda Gorman (1998-present) became the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration in American history. She cites poets Phillis Wheatley and Audre Lorde as being formative to her poetic expression.

History of Native American Poetry

Native Americans inhabited what is now known as the United States of America long before any European colonists ever landed at Plymouth Rock. The rich history of Native American oral traditions includes art and music that is likened to poetry. Many Native American oral poems were used to commemorate special events, invoke healing, or communicate with spiritual beings. Contemporary Native American poets often draw upon their cultural history in their poems, as well as themes such as the natural world and life.

The 1960s onwards is considered a Native American Literary Renaissance given the increased visibility of Native American literary works, including poetry, that explored Native American identity and history in the broader context of the United States. Duane Niatum (1938-present) and James Welsh (1940-2003) are two leading poets of the Native American Renaissance. Our current Poet Laureate is Joy Harjo (1951-present) of the Muscogee Nation, who is also the first Native American poet to hold the honor. Her poem 'From Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet' (2015) refers to the history of Native American culture and the legacy of colonialism in the United States.

History of American Poetry by Women

Throughout America’s poetic history, women have penned poetic verse, often to great acclaim. One of the earliest American poets was Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), who wrote about religion, family life, and love. It wasn’t until the 20th century that much of her poetry was discovered and published for the first time. Emily Dickinson (1930-1886) is credited with revolutionizing American poetry by contributing to a style of poetry removed from the rigid formality of her English poet predecessors. Modern American poets include Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-200), Maya Angelou (1928-2014), and Louise Glück (1943-present) who served as the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2003-2004 and has won a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize for literature.

History of Chicano Poetry

Chicano refers to people of Mexican descent living in the United States. Thus, Chicano poetry is poetry written by authors of Mexican descent or relating to Mexican-American identity in the United States. The Chicanismo movement in the United States developed in the Southwest in the 1930s and, in the 1970s, the Chicano movement extended strongly to literature and poetry. Chicano poets wrote about Chicano identity in America. Chicana women often wrote about cultures of machismo and patriarchy within the United States and their communities.

Juan Felipe Herrera (1948-present) served as the Poet Laureate of California in 2012 and in 2015 became the first Chicano poet to serve as the Poet Laureate of the United States. His poem 'Borderbus' (2015) explores the experience of migrants crossing the U.S. Border from Mexico. Alberto Rios (1952-present) served as the first poet laureate of Arizona in 2013 and holds this position to the present day.

What are the themes of American Poetry?

As you have probably discovered this far, American poetry is diverse and varied. Various themes have stood the test of time and inspired and challenged American poets from the colonial period to the present day.

American Identity

One common theme in American poetry is that of the country itself and American identity. Ideals such as independence and freedom are extolled in poems penned by Americans. One of the prime examples is 'The New Colossus' (1883) by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887). She penned this sonnet to raise money for the construction of the Statue of Liberty. After the statue's construction, her poem was engraved on its pedestal and serves as a welcome song to immigrants arriving in the United States. It serves as a message of freedom and hope and highlights the integral role immigrant identity plays in the construction of American identity.

Another 19th-century poet, Walt Whitman, often wrote about the shortcomings of an idealized America when compared to the reality of life in America. He exemplifies how poets writing about America and American identity also do so to confront and challenge prevalent issues in American society.

American Poetry, Statue of Liberty New York City Emma Lazarus, StudySmarterA stylized drawing of the Statue of Liberty in front of an outline of a bridge and the New York City skyline, pixabay.com

The Inner Self

In contrast to much of the poetry written in England, American poetry developed a distinct theme of individuality concerned with the construction of a ‘self’ in poetry. American poets write in a way that has proven that the inner life of a person is just as rich and worthy of artistic merit as the public persona. Emily Dickinson was one of the first prominent poets to write about her inner life, and Walt Whitman did so famously and boldly with his poem 'Song of Myself' (1855).

The Natural World

Nature is an enduring theme in American poetry. As previously mentioned, the transcendentalist movement had a huge impact on the development of a uniquely American voice in poetry. Transcendentalists were fundamentally interested in the relationship between man and nature and the rejection of the conventions and conveniences of modern society. From Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) to Mary Oliver (1935-2019), the natural world has served as a muse for American poets for centuries.

Time

Additionally, the passage of time has captured the imagination of American poets. Walt Whitman wrote 'Pioneers! O Pioneers' in 1865 as a call for westward expansion to usher in a new era in American history. Robert Frost (1874-1963), one of the quintessential American poets, was interested in the passing of time and the importance of how we spend time - whether this was in the consideration given to a friend in 'A Time to Talk' (1916) or the imagery of a luminary clock in the sky from 'Acquainted with the Night' (1928).

While these themes are not present in every American poem, they can be consistently identified in American poetry throughout the years.

Importance of American Poetry

One defining aspect of American poetry is perhaps, ironically, its indefinability. Because it spans such a large time period and so many different cultural perspectives, it is difficult to distill American poetry into one definition. At its core, American poetry showcases the continuities and changes that America has undergone over the years and the way that art can reflect, challenge, and contribute to society. American poetry developed its own unique tone distinct from its European predecessors and continues to serve as an illustration of American identity and all of its inherent complexities and contradictions.

American Poetry Books

There are numerous collections, anthologies, and compilations of American poetry. Here is a brief selection of some books that encompass parts of the history of American poetry:

  • The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry edited by former Poet Laureate Rita Dove, 2011.
  • The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry edited by Jay Parini, an American poet and critic, 1995.
  • African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, from the year 2020 edited by poet and editor Kevin Young.
  • Great Poems by American Women: An Anthology edited by Susan L. Rattiner, 1998.

American Poetry - Key takeaways

  • American poetry is the poetry of the United States.

  • There are multiple important movements in American poetic history including colonial poetry, Transcendentalism, Modernism, Renaissance movements, and contemporary poetry.

  • American poetry is written by poets of diverse backgrounds.

    • African American poetry has a rich history in the United States along with Chicano poetry, Native American poetry, and poetry written by women.

  • American poetry is composed of various themes, including the construction of American identity, the rich inner life of the self, the natural world, and the passing of time.

Frequently Asked Questions about American Poetry

American Poetry has various different features that contribute to its overall cultural identity. In the broadest sense, American poetry is the poetry of the United States. Its long history has seen a rejection of the formalistic, rigid qualities of the poetry of their English predecessors and an embracement of differing cultural perspectives, themes, and styles. Common themes in American poetry include American identity, the natural world, and the inner self.

American poetry is defined as the poetry of the United States. This generally refers to the time period from the first European colonists to the modern-day. American poetry is defined by being undefinable; in that, it encompasses different styles, voices, and perspectives.

American poetry begins with the first colonists arriving in the 1400s and continues being written, published, and circulated today. Important movements in the history of American poetry include colonial-era poetry, transcendentalist poetry, modernist poetry, the Harlem Renaissance, the San Francisco Renaissance, Beat poetry, and contemporary poetry.

Common themes in American poetry include the construction of American identity, the rich inner life of the self, the natural world, and the passing of time.

Final American Poetry Quiz

Question

What is American Poetry?

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American poetry broadly refers to the poetry of the United States and poetry written by American poets. It encompasses a period of time from the 14th century to the present day.

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Who writes American poetry?

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American poets do! American poetry is a diverse categorization given the various backgrounds, perspectives, and styles used by poets in the United States. Important contributors to American poetry have been made by African American poets, Native American poets, Chicano poets, and female poets in the United States.

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What is the history of American poetry?

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The history of American poetry is rich and varied! Beginning in the 14th century with colonial-era poetry, there have been numerous poetry movements, changes, and adaptations in the United States through to the present day. Now, poetry is more accessible than ever given the internet and the flourishing digital magazines, journals, zines, and forums dedicated to writing and publishing poetry.

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What are important movements in American poetry?

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There are too many to name! A select few movements that have been important to the development of American poetry include colonial-era poetry, transcendentalist poetry, modernist poetry, the Harlem Renaissance, the San Francisco Renaissance, Beat poetry, and contemporary poetry.

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What themes does American poetry cover?

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American poetry covers multiple different themes, and it is hard to narrow it down to just a couple. Having said that, common themes throughout the history of American poetry include American identity, the natural world, the passing of time, and the inner self.

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Who was William Carlos Williams?

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William Carlos Williams was an American poet, playwright, novelist, and medical doctor. He wrote both imagist and modernist poetry. He is known for developing a distinctly American voice in poetry.

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In what style did William Carlos Williams write?

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In his early poems, Williams wrote in an Imagist style. He used clear, concise diction in his poetry. Later, he became associated with Modernist poetry. His break from traditional poetry styles was represented in how he portrayed a distinctly American voice in his poetry. 

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What poems did William Carlos Williams write?

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Williams published multiple poetry collections which each contained numerous poems. His most famous poems include "The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923), "This Is Just To Say" (1934), and Paterson (1963) a five-volume epic poem.

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What is the difference between Modernism and Imagism?

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Imagism is a subcategory of modernist poetry that emphasized concise writing. Modernism was a movement that was concerned with rejecting classical forms and creating new styles of poetry.

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What was William Carlos Williams's job? 

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Williams was unusual in that, in addition to being a poet, he worked as a medical doctor during his entire adult life. He tended to patients during the day and wrote poetry at night. It was a tradeoff as he had less time for poetry but a stable income with which he could provide for his family.

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What is "The Red Wheelbarrow?"

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"The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923) is a poem by William Carlos Williams, originally published in a poetry and prose collection entitled Spring and All (1923). "The Red Wheelbarrow" is considered a prime example of Imagist poetry. For this reason, and because it shows how impactful even short poems can be, "The Red Wheelbarrow" endures as one of the most important poems of the 20th-century.

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Who wrote "The Red Wheelbarrow?"

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American poet and medical doctor William Carlos Williams wrote "The Red Wheelbarrow" early on in his poetry career. Williams is notable for having a full-time career outside of poetry as a medical practitioner in Rutherford, New Jersey. He is associated with Imagism and Modernism. His goal was to create a uniquely American voice in poetry that reflected the way Americans actually spoke in daily life. 

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What does "The Red Wheelbarrow" mean?

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"The Red Wheelbarrow" is an example of Imagist poetry, in which Williams wanted to pay attention to the small moments in everyday life. The central image, that of the red wheelbarrow, is something that other poets, and other people, may have overlooked as ordinary. By dedicating a poem to the red wheelbarrow and its physical properties, Williams gives this subject the same weight as the grand subjects of classical poetry. He also associates the red wheelbarrow with life and harmony, pointing to the nature of a livelihood of farming.

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What literary devices are used in "The Red Wheelbarrow?" 

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Williams utilizes enjambment, the continuation of a phrase into separate lines, throughout the poem to build anticipation. He also utilizes juxtaposition; between the colors of the red wheelbarrow and white chickens as well as between the reader's expectations of what a poem should be about and what Williams wrote a poem about. His use of a free verse style was meant to mimic the cadence of American speech.

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Why is "The Red Wheelbarrow" so short?

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At just 16 words and 8 lines, "The Red Wheelbarrow" is a brief poem. Imagist poetry emphasized concise, clear writing that still conveyed sharp images. With this poem, Williams proves just how concise a poet can be and still paint a complete picture. 

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What is Imagism?

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Imagism was a poetry movement in which poets emphasized clear, concise diction used to portray sharp images. "The Red Wheelbarrow" is a quintessential example of Imagist poetry for its short length, free structure, subject matter, and clear imagery.

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Who wrote "This Is Just To Say" (1934)?

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William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), an American poet and medical doctor, wrote "This Is Just To Say." The poem reads like an apology note left to Williams's wife for eating all of her plums.

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What are the themes of "This Is Just To Say?"

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"This Is Just To Say" touches on themes of temptation and guilt. Williams confronts the irresistible temptation of the sweet plums and must ask his wife's permission for giving in. There may be an underlying allusion to Williams's various extramarital affairs in his plea for forgiveness. Williams also feels guilt over eating the plums, but the pleasure of them outweighs the guilt. The poem is also written in a joyful, playful tone despite these seemingly heavier themes.

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What is Imagism?

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Imagism is a poetic movement in which poets utilized clear, concise diction to express a central image. The Imagist poets were concerned with the small pleasures and delights of everyday life.

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What is the purpose of “This Is Just To Say?”

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“This Is Just To Say” reads as an apology poem to the author’s wife for eating her plums. He delights in the deliciousness of the plums but asks for forgiveness as he knew she was saving them for breakfast.

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What poetic devices are used in "This Is Just To Say?"

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Williams utilizes enjambment, apostrophe, the variable foot, and imagery in "This Is Just To Say." These devices are used to give the poem a rhythm that mimics American speech patterns and concisely articulates the central image of the cold, sweet plums.

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Which best describes the rhythm of “This is just to say?”

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The rhythm of “This Is Just To Say” was written by Williams in order to reflect the cadence of American speech. He utilizes enjambment, the ‘variable foot,’ and simple description in order to achieve this goal. Rather than stick to a rigid form such as iambic pentameter, he mixes free verse with the ‘variable foot’ of his own creation to achieve the poem’s uniquely American rhythm.

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How is "This Is Just To Say" related to found poetry?

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Found poetry refers to poems that were taken from other texts; in this case, "This Is Just To Say" reads like a poem taken from a note left for the poet's wife, or that this poem was just found left on a counter.

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Who is Flossie?

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Flossie is William Carlos Williams's wife. She is considered the intended recipient of this poem, as Williams apologizes to her for eating her plums. She penned a response poem, entitled "Reply (Crumpled on Her Desk)."

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What is the central image of "This Is Just To Say?"

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The central image of the poem is that of the plums. They are described as having been in the icebox (refrigerator). Williams eats the plums and notes that they are "delicious" (10), "sweet" (11), and "cold" (12). 

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What is the intention of the speaker in “This Is Just To Say?”

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In “This Is Just To Say,” the speaker, poet William Carlos Williams, is accomplishing two things: first, he is asking his wife for forgiveness for eating her plums, and second, he is expressing delight in one of the small beauties of life- cold, sweet plums.

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Where was William Butler Yeats born?


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William Butler Yeats was born in Sandymount, Ireland.

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When was William Butler Yeats born?

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1865

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When did William Butler Yeats die? 

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1939

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What influenced William Butler Yeats' poetry? 

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Occultism, symbolism, Irish politics, supernatural.

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William Butler Yeats helped move English poetry into what era? 

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The modernist era. 

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How many collections of poetry did William Butler Yeats write? 

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30. 

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What political affiliation did William Butler Yeats have?

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Irish Nationalist.

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What prize did William Butler Yeats win in 1923? 

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The Nobel Prize for Literature. 

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What organization did William Butler Yeats co-found with Ernest Rhys?

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The Rhymers' Club.

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What is symbolist poetry?

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Symbolist poetry is a type of poetry that seeks to express absolute truths through symbols, metaphors, and physical language. Symbolist poetics came to be in the late 19th-century in response to poetic realism and naturalism.  

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What are some of William Butler Yeats' most famous poems? 

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  • 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' (1890)
  • 'Easter, 1916' (1916)
  • 'The Second Coming' (1920)
  • 'Sailing to Byzantium' (1928)

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What was William Butler Yeats' cherished childhood hometown?

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County Sligo, Ireland. 

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Why is "The Red Wheelbarrow" so famous?

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“The Red Wheelbarrow” is famous as a perfect example of Imagist poetry, and as a testament to the power of poetry even in such a short form. Williams is well-known as a Modernist and Imagist poet, and "The Red Wheelbarrow" could be considered the magnum opus of his early Imagist poems. 

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What are the two main colors in "The Red Wheelbarrow?"

A. Red and Blue

B. Red and Yellow

C. Red and White

D. Red and Green

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C. Red and White

Williams describes the wheelbarrow as red and the chickens as white. These two colors may imply a subtext in which Williams extolls a pastoral lifestyle as vital and peaceful.

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Question

Why does "so much depend/upon" (1-2) the red wheelbarrow?

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Answer

Williams leaves the answer to this question ambiguous. The poem almost poses it to the reader- he state that so much depends upon the red wheelbarrow but doesn't explicitly tell us why, leaving us to investigate. As an example of Imagist poetry, Williams could be saying that so much depends upon the small moments in life, such as the simple beauty of a red wheelbarrow. He could also have utilized the colors in the poem to reference the vital functions of farms and the peaceful nature of farm life, saying that so much depends upon this type of lifestyle.

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Question

What is the literal meaning of the poem "The Red Wheelbarrow?"

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The literal meaning, by which we ignore all subtext and possible subjective interpretations, is Williams’s effort to paint a clear image of a red wheelbarrow. The literal meaning, then, is just this- a red wheelbarrow, exactly as described, next to the white chickens. Williams asks the reader to determine why the red wheelbarrow carries so much importance.

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Question

Who was Robert Browning?

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Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright in the Victorian age. He is best known for dramatic verse. 

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What kind of poetry did Robert Browning write?

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He is famous for dramatic monologue. In dramatic monologue there is one speaker in the poem. This speaker addresses a silent listener; the observations and comments of the speaker on his/her own story give readers psychological insight into the character.

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Question

What poems are Robert Browning famous for writing? 

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His most famous poem is 'My Last Duchess.' He also wrote The Book and the Ring and 'Porphyria's Lover.' Although he never considered himself a children's poet, Browning wrote the famous children's poem 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' for a friend's son. 

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Who was Robert Browning married to? 

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Robert Browning was married to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She was a poet in her own right whenever they met. 

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What major complications did the Brownings face? 

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning's father disapproved of Robert Browning and disowned his daughter when he found out she married him. The two had to marry secretly and move to Italy to avoid her father's wrath. Elizabeth Barrett Browning also suffered from lung issues and a spinal injury, making her very sick for most of her life. 

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What was one of Browning's biggest criticisms early on in his career as a poet? 

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Critics like Henry Mill's criticized his first poem for being too personal an emotional. Browning decided to become an objective narrator and rarely included his personal thoughts in his poetry after that. 

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Question

How was Robert Browning educated?

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His father educated him at home. His father wanted a career in art, but couldn't due to financial troubles. He educated Robert Browning in classical art and mythology and supported his writing career both emotionally and financially. 

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Question

What are the major themes throughout Browning's works?

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Answer

Browning writes a lot about death, the subjugation of women, and art and beauty. 

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