Abstract and Keywords
This essay argues that since the Second World War, poetry written in England has gradually ceased to define itself in terms of country. In the post-war period, the idea of an English poetry was given fullest expression by Donald Davie. In both Purity of Diction in English Verse and Thomas Hardy and British Poetry, Davie identified a specificity in poetry (whether of diction or topography) with a sense of the poet’s responsibility toward his or her community. In both works that community was characterized, in part, in terms of the poet’s country. The essay sets Davie’s discussions alongside Hannah Arendt’s contemporary arguments for an idea of responsibility that takes into account the post-war reality of statelessness, and which thus extends beyond a given geopolitical space. Arendt’s argument is towards a decoupling of thought and language from the categories of nation and country. One finds such a decoupling in Andrew Crozier’s introduction to the 1987 anthology A Various Art, in which Crozier argues that the poets represented in the anthology ‘did not belong to the general category of their national poetry’. The essay considers the implications of such a position and concludes with a discussion of Tony Lopez’s False Memory, a poem which looks to find forms of understanding that are not underpinned by geographical specificity.
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