The first decades of the 20th century were a period of extraordinary originality and vitality in poetry. A variety of trends and currents gave shape to a changing world and contributed to expressing the nature of the modern experience.
The Georgian Poets
The Georgian poets were the first major group of the post-Victorian era. They were still influenced by the Victorian Romantic tradition. They are usually defined the "Georgian Poets" because their work appeared in a series of five anthologies called "Georgian Poetry" because published during the reign of George V.
Their poetry represented something of a reaction to the decadence of the 1890 and tended towards the sentimental. They felt simpathy for specifically English elements, such as the countryside, as an idyllic place.
The War Poets
A whole generation of promising young poets, the so-called "War Poets", wrote remarkable poetry whose values lie on the unconventional, anti-rhetorical way they use for a socially-aware criticism of the war, and in a certain measure of experimentalism which emerged in the choice of a violent everyday language.
Modern poetry officially began with Imagism, a movement which flourished between 1912 and 1917. The name "Imagism" was invented by the American poet Ezra Pound.
Imagists used hard, clear and precise images and a rhythm which was freed from metrical regularity. They also felt free in the choice of any subject matter, their poems were usually short and contained no moral comment.
Symbolism and free verse
French Symbolism, a movement which had started in France with Charles Baudelaire, also influenced the new poetry.
The name "symbolist" itself was first applied by the critic Jean Morèas, who invented the term to distinguish the symbolists from the related decadents of literature and of art. The style of the Symbolists was characterised by:
- indirect rather than direct statements;
- the use of allusive language and development of the multiple association of words;
- the importance given to the sound of words;
- the use of quotations from other literatures, revealing cosmopolitan interests;
- the use of free verse;
- the possibility of the reader to bring a personal meaning to the poem.