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How Did Poetry Survive?

The Making of Modern American Verse

John Timberman Newcomb

Publication Year: 2012

How Did Poetry Survive? traces the emergence of modern American poetry at the turn of the nineteenth century. With a particular focus on four "little 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.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-xi

When a project originally planned as one book becomes two, the acknowledgments multiply as well. All those I thanked in Would Poetry Disappear? are also part of this book, whether they like it or not. But I’m pleased to acknowledge...

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Introduction: A Modernism of the City

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pp. 1-6

In 1850 poetry was the central genre of American literary culture. Fifty years later it was widely viewed as a mawkish refuge for dilettantes and sentimentalists. Its powers had been circumscribed by genteel custodians bent upon protecting it from the sullying...

Part I: Inventing the New Verse

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pp. 7-144

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1. American Poetry on the Brink, 1905-12

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pp. 9-25

The status of poetry in the United States hit bottom between 1900 and 1905. Commentaries during these years routinely assumed that the art was in precipitous decline, and many questioned its very survival.1 The genteel custodians...

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2. Poetry's Opening Door: Harriet Monroe and American Modernism

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pp. 26-53

Among the most familiar yet misunderstood moments of twentieth-century American literary history is the founding of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in Chicago in 1912 by Harriet Monroe. Poetry has long been noted for its publication of nearly...

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3. Young, Blithe, and Whimsical: The Avant-Gardism of The Masses

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pp. 54-78

Between 1913 and 1917, several other little magazines enriched the New Verse movement by joining and competing with Poetry as vigorous venues of contemporary American poetry. The discussions of...

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4. There Is Always Others: Experimental Verse and "Ulterior Social Result"

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pp. 79-117

If The Masses was written out of the history of twentieth-century American poetry, Others, published in New Jersey, New York, and Chicago between July 1915 and July 1919 by Alfred Kreymborg and various friends, was written into it in a peculiarly...

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5. Volunteers of America, 1917: The Seven Arts and the Great War

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pp. 118-144

In contrast to Poetry, celebrating its centennial in 2012, the Seven Arts lasted only twelve tumultuous issues between November 1916 and October 1917. Yet perhaps even more than...

Part II: Keys to the City

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pp. 145-159

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6. Gutter and Skyline: The New Verse and the Metropolitan Cityscape

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pp. 147-179

So far, my narrative of the New Verse movement has focused on the little magazine as the discursive innovation that catalyzed the dramatic change in American poetry’s fortunes after 1912. The three remaining chapters complement this institutional...

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7. Footprints of the Twentieth Century: American Skyscrapers, Modern Poems

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pp. 180-216

The most potent icons of modernity in the early twentieth-century city were great buildings, structures of unprecedented scale and grandeur that punctuated the skyline and symbolized the metropolitan ethos. Unlike the grandest structures...

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8. Subway Fare: Toward a Poetics of Rapid Transit

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pp. 217-262

Wishful civic boosters of the early twentieth century discerned signs of financial utopia in the “symbiotic relation” between the skyscraper and the urban railway, which they saw as the source not only of the American city’s spectacular...


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pp. 263-302


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pp. 303-326


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pp. 327-338

About the Author, Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 352-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093906
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036798

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 842264573
MUSE Marc Record: Download for How Did Poetry Survive?

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- United States.
  • Poetry -- Authorship -- Psychological aspects.
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Psychology.
  • Social change in literature.
  • Social conflict in literature.
  • City and town life in literature.
  • Technology in literature.
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