English Literature

20 MODERN POEMS VARYING ON THEMES FROM APARTHEID, RACISM, SPIRITUALITY TO FEMINISM : RECOMMENDED BY VINEET PANDEY


TOP 20 MODERN POEMS


Why is modern literature a hard nut to crack?

Have you ever been through a situation where someone just stared at, appreciated, took inspiration from your dressing sense, complicated art or writing for having abstract elements and reflecting your perspective in a style either for your not so coexisting thoughts, feelings, a chasm between the inner and outer reality?

Ezra Pound once stated inhis essay titled

“Make It New.”

So, what is This “IT” in his famous dictum- A theory, criticism, fraction, philosophy, psychology or anything that paves the way to something greater yet intelligible?

Usually, Modernism is thought to be fashion in vogue especially clothing because it is the first thing to get noticed visually but taken into a broader sense modernism has to be of the fact of the sudden and abrupt yet an invisible gradual change.

Is it a herculean task to understand modernism or a cake walk to get through its concepts and interrelations not only with the two world wars, the sinking of Titanic, assassination of the Australian prince, the high rise of inflation and migration in small countries after the crashing of the wall street, the demise of queen Victoria and a very famous phrase by Virginia Woolf showing the mind set of individuality and not of humanity

“In 1910, the human character changed”

But also with the publication of Interpretation of Dreams(1899),Theories of Einstein, Max Planck , the inner working of mind by Sigmund Freud and expansion of it with a little modification into “collective unconsciousness”?

So many things either going paradoxically, hand in hand or showing multifarious tendency which resulted in aloofness and disconnection from theouter reality.

The strain of grasping or comprehending modern age or literature has to deal with the comprehension of the underneath simple and valuable structurein their fragmentations and straight or direct message.

Therefore, I Vineet Pandey, would always say that modern age or modern literature is very imperative as far as NTA NET JRF is concerned because Modern age and literature gives wings to many things to fly together and all of them can be interpreted with various approaches and findings.


 

IMPORTANT POEMS ( FOR NTA NET JRF ) :-

The Waste Land (1922) :

Not having any structural unity but encompasses as one of the best modernist poems. The five sections all together combined show Eliot’s concept of “Tradition and Individual Talent”.
Rich in mythologies, figures and having the referential nature, Eliot very meticulously uses free verse to convey the hidden message which is simple to its readers.

The Love song of J Alfred Prufrock (1915):-

The difference between Camus’ main character in The Stranger (1942) and Eliot’s Prufrock is that both are disconnected from the world but one is completely detached while the other is in a constant observation around his self being too anxious.
“Prufrock” is one of the best examples of how a character’s inner self keeps on changing the way he keeps on moving towards endlessness of life.
The first published poem of Eliot as a writer, highly influenced by Dante, Shakespeare and Thomas Gray.

The Second Coming (1919) :-

Futuristic and deeply symbolist in its nature, the second coming has a spiritual message in cognito of an invisible persona.
Later influenced many writers to delve deep into the widening gap occurring in the modern age and a feeling of alienation from the tradition.

Sailing to Byzantium (1928) :-

Modern age did reflect a loss in one self and to seek that voidness many writers sought resort to escapism in the form of spirituality.
Spirituality is finding an invisible paradise and the meaning of life eternally but the irony of the old character gets mirrored back when W B Yeats starts the poem with the line

“There is no home for old.”

Leaves of Grass (1855):-

Criticized for its obscenityand talking about sexuality, Walt Whitman takes a very different approach towards this poem later adding an elegy on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Authenticity and the showcase of American self with the influence of transcendentalism recreated leaves of grass as one of the best of its age.

Pioneers O Pioneers (1865) :-

Imagist, allegorical and exhibiting manifest destiny, Walt Whitman’s support for the pioneers of America who went for the exploration addressing them as “WE” became one of the literary motivations for the people of America.

The Weary Blues (1926):-

Symbolic as the color struggle for the black and written during the Harlem renaissance, the weary blues by Langston Hughesis all gloomy yet takes delight in celebrating the blues.

Howl (1956) :-

Controversial for its performance and was criticized for the use of the sexual words directly, this poem by Allen Ginsberg divided into three parts, a footnote and a rhythmic theme is very well known among the beat generation.

The Yellow House in the Corner (1989): –

The title taken from Rita Dave’s first collection, the yellow house in the corner depicts the harsh reality of “Change”. How even the smallest of the smallest change of a vowel can have a greater impact in the society and the community as whole.
Descriptive in details, musical and historically significant along with allusionsmake this poem a must read.

The Soldier( 1914) :-

Rupert Brooke’s most circulated and read poems of all because of its theme of sheer patriotism and the honour and achievements of a soldier. Comes under as war poetry but gets into the frame of a modern one since the love for one’s own country amidst the elements of loss, repentance, chaos and dislocation is praise worthy but an eye-opener too.
Love for the country land is apparent when the speaker says

“ Even if I die somewhere else in a foreign land, that land will be London for me.”

The Negro Speaks of the River (1940):-

A little bit romantic in type but a lot historical in sense. Langston Hughes while journeying through Mississippi river enchanted by its beauty composed the poem and brought forth the hidden desire of the Afro-American people struggling to find their space in a situation when they were neglected racially and historically as well.

Has talked about and connectedvarious rivers of Africa like Euphrates, Congo, Nile and Mississippi together. While enjoying the journey he talks about his cultural root to have grown up deep like these rivers which is evident in the words

“I’ve known rivers : Ancient Dusky Rivers. My Soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

Later he dedicated this poem to W E B DuBois.

Dulce et Decorum Est (1920) :-

“How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s own country.”

Dulce et Decorum Est pro patria mori – what can be better to a soldier than the famous maxims and poemswhen it comes to talking about wars and the inspirations needed for the psychological and mental stability.
But why did Wilfred Owen in the last line of the poem call it an “OLD LIE”?
Did he want to give a message through the title in reverse sarcasm?
Or maybe he condemns the exaltation and the glory that a newbie in the field gets when he dies with the compensation in a sentence that

“At least I sacrificed my life for my own country in a WAR.”

Church Going(1955):-

In the midst of the bafflement and confusion created by wars, political upheaval and a break away from religion, Philip Larkin tries to build a hope or faith but also an escapism through the use of religion by visiting the church not as a regular church goer but as an explorer.
No matter whether one accepts the place of the church as a religious one or an exploration, Philip Larkin asserts that buildings like these should be kept for a better place for humanity as they provide social gatherings and let the community come together no matter what.

The Hollow Men(1925):-

The recurring theme of voidness and fractions structured in five sections, the poem breaks through the allusions from Joseph Conrad, William Morris, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, to Guy Fawkes.
The final stanza and the repetition of the sentence

“This is the way the world ends”

Thrice shows how much Eliot emphasizes and is willing to send the message

“Not with a bang but a whimper.”

September 1 1939(1939) :-

Alluded to Easter 1916 by W B Yeats and Carl Jung’s Psychology and Religion (1938), the poem that is controversial for its one line

“We must love one another or die.”

Structure within structure, meanings within meanings and an ideology within an ideology, W H Auden has very well discussed about the intolerance of homosexuality giving a universal message that differences whether in sexual orientation, class, thoughts, race should be accepted.
Adhering to the idea of “universal love”, the poem has become a major read.

I Taught Myself to Live Simply (1912):-

The philosophy of how life consists in the happiness of small things.

“Simplethings in life can be looked with a different outlook and enjoyed truly.”

Simplicity here is all about how one enjoys the surroundings around and gets so involved with the happenings of life that one should not even be aware of any outer disturbance.

The Cantos( 1925) :-

Was on its way to be a classic but frustrated, Ezra Pound left it incomplete.
Crafted with 116 sections that too in prose style and talking about the economical, governmental, and cultural themes, along with the addition of characters and sayings from China and European countries.
The use of the myths of Eliot and the progressive consciousnessof Joyce to decipher the fragmentations in history and personality, the contrasting nature of the moon and the sun but creating a balance between, being controversial for its too much experimental structure and publications in roman numerical except 85 to 109 only being to have been published in Arabic numerals.

“I(a” or “the leaf falls” (1958) :-

Not only a poem but also a deep exploration of the philosophy of life by Edward Estlin Cummings, the poet known for his intricate style of orthography and the specific use of the lower cases until and unless the capitalization is necessary.
Reading Edward Estlin Cummings is not straining until and unless one has been through the disintegration in his poems and language.
The poem mentioned above is one of the best creative geniuses by Cummings depicting that human life just like a single leaf which falls from the tree has its structure in loneliness but the base speaks of everything coming together even if they are in their dissociations and fragmentations.

In Celebration of My Uterus() :-

One of the foremost female writers to have talked about the reproductive organs like “uterus”, abortion, menstruation, motherhood and sexuality, Anne Saxton- the confessional and Pulitzer prize winner writer has wittingly talked about the motherhood and how through the first line of the poem, it has talked about the beauty of the uterus to carry a child within

“Everyone in me is a word; I’m beating all my wings.”

The beauty of the reproductive organs of women has always been a matter of negligence but Anne Saxton beautifully in two lines summed up

“in celebration of the woman I’m; and of the soul of the woman I’m.”

Sea Poppies (1916) :-

Hilda Doolittle like all the other writers of her age sought for what she saw and felt. Her poems are the best examples of “Imagist” movement.
In love with nature , she outstandingly gives the impressions of the images of the “poppy”- a kind of the sea plant and its comparison using the language and the adjectives to comingle naturalism, imagism,, symbolism and her own conscious emotions.

PS: – Do study “SEA OF POPPIES” by Amitav Ghosh.

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