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About Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Second Edition

Scope of the Collection

Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Second Edition is an essential collection of poetry which allows readers an unparalleled survey of the movements, schools and distinctive voices of modern and contemporary American poetry. It combines two existing Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections, Twentieth-Century American Poetry and Twentieth-Century African American Poetry, with over 500 volumes of newly-licensed material from established and emergent poets. The collection contains over 100,000 poems representing the full range of American poetry of the last century, from the major Modernist works of Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Djuna Barnes to the contemporary works of Robinson Jeffers, Billy Collins, Elinor Wylie and Peter Gizzi.

Major movements of the century are represented, including the Black Mountain School of Charles Olson and Robert Duncan, the Deep Image poetry of Robert Bly and James Wright, underground literature by the Beat poets, The New York School of John Ashbery, Clark Coolidge and Denise Levertov, the influential feminist works of Adrienne Rich and the works of the confessional poets. Short-lived but significant movements, such as Vorticism, Objectivism and Concrete poetry are also included.

The most important and influential African American poets of the twentieth century are included in the collection. Key writers such as Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer and Imamu Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou are featured alongside a considerable body of writing by young and emergent poets of the 1980s and 1990s who have gained recognition through national poetry awards or inclusion within leading print anthologies. This collection is significantly augmented by the further inclusion of ethnic poetic voices from the Chicano, Asian-American and Native-American communities such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Tomas Rivera and Li-Young Lee.

Full details of the texts included in the collection are listed in the bibliography.

Key areas now covered by the collection include:

  • Beat Generation: Beginning in New York in the 1940s and later associated with San Francisco, the Beat movement blended comic exuberance with prophetic aspirations and had a profound and lasting impact on the American poetic sensibility of the late twentieth century. The collection contains the essential works from this influential movement including Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' and 'A Supermarket in California', Gregory Corso's 'The Vestal Lady on Brattle' and the 'blues' poems of Jack Kerouac. From the later West Coast period of the movement, Gary Snyder's 'A Berry Feast', Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 'A Coney Island of the Mind' and Michael McClure's 'Ode to Jackson Pollock' are all included amongst others. Works from more peripheral figures on the Beat scene such as James Broughton, William Everson and Kenneth Rexroth are also featured in the collection.
  • Black Arts Movement: The Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s could trace its ideological roots back to the literary Renaissance's of Harlem and Chicago of the inter-war years. Political activism, social commentary and the struggle for civil rights were key to the African-American poets at this time and these concerns are evident in much of their work included in this collection. Imamu Amiri Baraka, at the forefront of the movement, is represented by his essential volumes including The Dead Lecturer (1964), Black Arts (1966) and Afrikan Revolution (1973). Gwendolyn Brooks' poetry is featured including her critically acclaimed Annie Allen (1949) and the complex and intriguing In the Mecca (1968). Other members of this movement included in the collection are Jayne Cortez, Etheridge Knight, Dudley Randall, Sonia Sanchez and Audre Lorde.
  • Black Mountain School: A term coined by Donald M. Allen and named after the experimental Black Mountain College founded by John Andrew Rice, the movement's two leading exponents, Robert Creeley and Charles Olson are well represented in the collection. Inspired by the modernist works of Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, Black Mountain poets 'projective verse' brought a freedom of form, content and language to their poetry which can be seen in the collection in Edward Dorn's Abhorrences (1990) and Denise Levertov's The Jacob's Ladder (1961) and The Sorrow Dance (1966).
  • Objectivism and Deep Image: Led by Louis Zukofsky, Objectivism was a term adopted by a group of 1930s poets whose work intensified the aims of the Imagist movement that preceded it by emphasising the presentation of the object. The collection contains the key works of the movement by William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi and Kenneth Rexroth. Deep Image poets developed this concentration on the object by combining it with a Jungian sense of the connection between the image and the unconscious. Leading proponents of the movement are featured in the collection including Robert Kelly, Robert Bly and James Wright.
  • Women's Writing: From the late 1960s onwards, women's poetry has emerged as a poetic category predicated by the sense that writing is not a gender-neutral arena. The collection contains a broad range of twentieth century female poets and their works from the early modernist verse of H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Gertrude Stein and Edna St. Vincent Millay to the postmodern explorations of women, marginalisation and suppressed voices in the works of Rita Dove, Ai, Margaret Walker, Maya Angelou and Susan Howe.
  • Harlem and Chicago Renaissances: Borrowing from folk literature of the black tradition and yet treating themes of African-American identity in a modern way, the Harlem Renaissance occurred in the New York district during the 1920s. Perhaps the most famous figure in the movement, Langston Hughes, is represented by his collected poems in the collection. Other notable and influential figures, including Jean Toomer, Claude McKay and James Weldon Johnson are also featured in the collection. The Chicago Renaissance, which took place from the early 1930s to the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, brought African-American poetry to a more political end as can be seen in the works of Fenton Johnson, Arna Wendell Bontemps, Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Walker; all included in this collection. Also featured in the collection is the hugely influential Spoon River Anthology (1915) by Edgar Lee Masters.
  • Language Poetry: Influenced by and reacting to the Objectivists and the Black Mountain School, Language poetry is nevertheless a distinct and significant category of American twentieth century poetry. Its intentions were first broadcast in the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E whose editors, Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews, are included in the collection. The central tenets of the movement, a focus on the material of language rather than its expressive qualities, can be seen in other important works featured in the collection including Pierce-Arrow (1999) by Susan Howe, The Promises of Glass (2000) by Michael Palmer and Up to Speed (2004) by Rae Armantrout.
  • Modernism: An international movement, Modernism saw the creation of many of the poetic masterpieces of the twentieth century and is characterised by formal experimentalism, explorations of the unconscious and the alienating force of modern life. The collection contains many of the most significant Modernist poets and works including Ezra Pound's Cantos, and the complete poems of William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, Wallace Stevens, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Mina Loy, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes.
  • New York School: Closely linked to the development of Abstract Expressionism in the art world, the New York School of poetry emerged in the 1950s and 1960s and is characterised by witty, abstract and colloquial verse. The collection contains the works of the School's main proponent John Ashbery as well as those of other key poets including Joseph Ceravolo, Ron Padgett and Kenward Elmslie. More peripheral but still significant members of the movement are also included in the collection such as Clark Coolidge, Barbara Guest and Eileen Myles.
  • Chicano Poetry: The collection now includes significant works of Chicano poetry from contemporary Mexican-American poets such as Lorna Dee Cervantes, Pat Mora, Tomas Rivera and Ray Gonzalez. The Nuyorican poetry movement is also fully represented with volumes from Sandra Maria Esteves, Tato Laviera and Miguel Pinero. Influential and award-winning volumes from key Cuban-American poets are also included in the collection such as Carolina Hospital's Capitalism (2004) and Rafael Campo's The Other Man Was Me (1994).

Editorial Policy

In selecting poets for inclusion, the aim has been to include a broad representative collection that reflects the diversity of modern American literary traditions, including, subject to the granting of electronic rights by the print publishers, major figures alongside historically important writers and younger emergent poets. The complete text of each poem has been included, and any integral textual images and illustrations have been scanned. Additional information relating directly to the poetry, such as prefaces or introductions, has been keyed. Any prose sections of the volumes that are significant to the works have also been included.

Full details of the texts included in the collection are listed in the bibliography.

The Editions and the Texts

Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Second Edition aims to include as full a collection of the published works of each poet as possible. When available, a poet's collected edition has been keyed. Exceptions are for poets whose collected editions are not yet in print or complete. In most cases, the editions have been provided by the publishers. Every poem has been indexed within its edition's table of contents. Where ProQuest has not secured electronic rights to publish the full text of an individual poem or series of poems within its respective edition, we have provided a statement to this effect where the full text of these poems would normally be displayed.

The entire text of each poem has been included. Any accompanying text forming an integral part of the poetry, such as dedications, notes, acknowledgements, prefaces, introductions, and epigraphs, is generally included, provided ProQuest has secured electronic rights for the material. Indexes of titles and first lines have been excluded.

Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Second Edition enjoys the active support of the poets involved, their estates, literary agents, and publishers. ProQuest protects the rights and integrity of the poets and their work on the Internet.

Advisory Board

  • Matthew J. Bruccoli, Jefferies Professor of English, University of South Carolina
  • Laurence Buell, Professor of English, Harvard University
  • William Cagle, Director, Lilly Library, Indiana University
  • John Goodby, University of Wales, Swansea
  • Michael Hrebeniak, University of Cambridge
  • Nancy Kuehl, Associate Curator, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library, Yale University
  • Richard Layman, Vice President, Bruccoli Clark Layman
  • Harrison Meserole, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University
  • Joel Myerson, Carolina Research Professor of American Literature, University of South Carolina
  • Peter Riley