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Movement, The

Spectator, Poets of the 1950s, New Lines, The Movement, Purity of Diction in English Verse

poets verse poetry ‘the

a group of young poets of the 1950s ‘announced’, as Ian Hamilton writes in his essay ‘The Making of the Movement’, ‘to be in concerted reaction against the tangled and pretentious neo-romanticism’, of the New Apocalypse and their immediate successors. The name was coined in an unsigned leading article in the Spectator in October 1954 which stressed the sceptically intelligent, accessible, and robustly commonsensical attitudes of the poets; two of them, Kingsley Amis and John Wain, were already enjoying considerable success with their first novels. D. J. Enright and Robert Conquest, themselves numbered among the Movement poets, respectively edited the group's principal anthologies, Poets of the 1950s (1955) and New Lines (1956); the other poets represented were Donald Davie, Thom Gunn, John Holloway, Elizabeth Jennings, and Philip Larkin. Conquest's introduction claimed their poetry was characterized by ‘rational structure and comprehensible language’ and ‘negative determination to avoid bad principles’. The poets were designated ‘the New Augustans’ in recognition of the accomplishment with which they used traditional verse forms and the logically discursive development typifying many of their poems. Their detractors found their work intellectually arid and elitist in its habits of erudite allusion, factors associated with the preponderance of university lecturers among the Movement poets. Blake Morrison's study The Movement (1980) identified F. R. Leavis, George Orwell, and William Empson as precursors of various aspects of the poets' theory and practice. Davie's Purity of Diction in English Verse (1952) stated the critical assumptions underlying much of the group's poetry. Briefly alluding to the Movement in the introduction to his Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse (1980), which contains work by six of the group, Enright later noted ‘the nonchalance with which, after a brief period of cohesiveness, its members went their separate ways’; the Movement had, however, a decisive influence on poetry in English for many years.

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