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Something We Have That They Don't

British and American Poetic Relations since 1925

Steve & Mark Clark & Ford

Publication Year: 2004

There is some connexion
(I like the way the English spell it
They’re so clever about some things
Probably smarter generally than we are
Although there is supposed to be something
We have that they don’'t—'don’t ask me
What it is. . . .)
—John Ashbery, “Tenth Symphony”

Something We Have That They Don’t presents a variety of essays on the relationship between British and American poetry since 1925. The essays collected here all explore some aspect of the rich and complex history of Anglo-American poetic relations of the last seventy years. Since the dawn of Modernism poets either side of the Atlantic have frequently inspired each other’s developments, from Frost’s galvanizing advice to Edward Thomas to rearrange his prose as verse, to Eliot’s and Auden’s enormous influence on the poetry of their adopted nations (“whichever Auden is,” Eliot once replied when asked if he were a British or an American poet, “I suppose, I must be the other”); from the impact of Charles Olson and other Black Mountain poets on J. H. Prynne and the Cambridge School, to the widespread influence of Frank O'Hara and Robert Lowell on a diverse range of contemporary British poets. Clark and Ford’s study aims to chart some of the currents of these ever-shifting relations. Poets discussed in these essays include John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, T. S. Eliot, Mark Ford, Robert Graves, Thom Gunn, Lee Harwood, Geoffrey Hill, Michael Hofmann, Susan Howe, Robert Lowell, and W. B. Yeats.

“Poetry and sovereignty,” Philip Larkin remarked in an interview of 1982, “are very primitive things”: these essays consider the ways in which even seemingly very “unprimitive” poetries can be seen as reflecting and engaging with issues of national sovereignty and self-interest, and in the process they pose a series of fascinating questions about the national narratives that currently dominate definitions of the British and American poetic traditions.

This innovative and exciting new collection will be of great interest to students and scholars of British and American poetry and comparative literature.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: “Something We Have That They Don’t”

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pp. 1-29

This volume’s title derives from “Tenth Symphony” by John Ashbery, which includes a typically inconclusive meditation on the differences between British and American poetry. The British, he muses, are so clever about some things Probably smarter generally than we are Although there is supposed to be something We have that they don’t—don’t ask me What it is . . .1 The essays collected here explore some aspect of the rich

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“Why Should Men’s Heads Ache?”: Yeats and American Modernism

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pp. 30-52

In this essay I visit the prehistory of postwar poetry to argue that certain dynamics and dialectics, which pivot on the self-remaking of W. B. Yeats,have been obscured by the “modernist” paradigms of Anglo-American criticism. I will discuss Yeats’s reception by some younger poets during the 1930s,his provocative Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936), his fitful rivalry with ...

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“A Package Deal”: The Descent of Modernism

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pp. 53-74

“A Package Deal” is the title of a review of Robert Graves’s Steps by an up-and-coming young critic in the Observer shortly after the book was published in 1958.“The title of this review,” writes John Wain,“is an Americanism: I use it as a code signal of solidarity with Mr Graves, whose English vocabulary and sentence-construction are becoming daily more Americanised”:...

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Writing “Without Roots”: Auden, Eliot, and Post-national Poetry

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pp. 75-97

September 1939 was a month of simultaneous historical accelerations and decelerations in Europe. Some unforeseen events occurred rapidly, while other occurrences, long awaited, failed to happen at all. The month when war was finally declared between Britain and France and Germany and when Poland was swallowed by Germany and the USSR, was the month when enor-...

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“A Whole Climate of Opinion”: Auden’s Influence on Bishop

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pp. 98-117

We tend to think about influence in terms of the family tree, but there is no deep tap-root uniting Elizabeth Bishop and W. H. Auden. Auden’s ties are to a civil tradition derived from Chaucer and Pope. Bishop’s line is meditative and descriptive, drawn from the metaphysicals, the romantics, and most immediately, from the symbolist element of modernism. Auden’s influence on her...

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The American Poetry of Thom Gunn and Geoffrey Hill

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pp. 118-136

Very early in their careers, Thom Gunn and Geoffrey Hill found stylistic models with complex implications in poets from the second generation of American modernists: Yvor Winters for Gunn and Allen Tate for Hill. This essay explores the uses the British poets made of the Americans. It is also concerned with the distinctive constructions of twentieth-century American...

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The White Room in the New York Schoolhouse

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pp. 137-150

The poem seems to be an autobiographical episode that is fixed in place and time by the title “rain journal: london: june ’65.” The frankness of the matter-of-fact description and the casual, unofficial quality established by the lowercase voice, is complicated right away by the fourth line, “this my first real love scene,” because the past event is visualized as a film scene, presented in the present tense, casually and naively direct, with the speaker...

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“Rebellion That Honors the Liturgies”: Robert Lowell and Michael Hofmann

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pp. 151-167

Robert Lowell, Helen Vendler has written, “could dispense with ideology but never with history”; Lowell himself, that he was “learning to live in history.”1 Now he is part of history, and makes critics uneasy; readers still read him,and teach “For the Union Dead,”but it’s common to meet talented young Americans not so much hostile to, as unfamiliar with, the last books. Lowell is better...

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Authority, Marginality, England, and Ireland in the Work of Susan Howe

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pp. 168-181

Born of an Irish mother, possessed by that transitional passage of identity through which (New) English people became Americans, the American poet Susan Howe has throughout her career used figures from American,English, and Irish literary and political history to address issues of colonization, authority, and marginality. Recent critical emphasis on Howe’s use of...

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“The Circulation of Small Largenesses”: Mark Ford and John Ashbery

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pp. 182-196

Writers influenced by John Ashbery more often imitate his manner than grasp his import. They can scramble a metaphor, write a melting close,insert pop icons, make a comic allusion. But the essence of Ashbery does not lie in these tricks. When in 1992, I read, with instant joy, Mark Ford’s Land-locked, I found a poet who had internalized the inner, more than the outer Ash-...


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pp. 196-212

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 213-214

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pp. 215-216

The authors and publisher gratefully acknowledge permission to reprint copyrighted From Selected Poems by Simon Armitage, reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber From “Into the Dusk-Charged Air,” and “Civilization and Its Discontents,” from Rivers and Mountains, by John Ashbery, copyright © 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966 by John Ashbery. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc., for the author and Carcanet...


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pp. 217-226

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294761
E-ISBN-10: 1587294761
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877458814
Print-ISBN-10: 0877458812

Page Count: 231
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 66398523
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Something We Have That They Don't

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Relations -- Great Britain.
  • Comparative literature -- English and American.
  • American poetry -- English influences.
  • English poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism
  • English poetry -- American influences.
  • Comparative literature -- American and English.
  • Great Britain -- Relations -- United States.
  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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