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Underground Poetry

Children of Albion: Poetry of the ‘Underground’ in Britain, Bomb Culture

poets britain cultural michael

the term for the work of poets identified with the radical cultural attitudes of the 1960s. The American Beat poets were the immediate predecessors of underground poetry in the USA and Britain, which was characterized by rejection of conventional forms in favour of conversational and rhetorical modes immediately accessible in performance. William Blake was frequently invoked as the visionary progenitor of the spirit of romantic rebellion espoused by many poets in the movement. The poetry was generally ideological in tone, its strong element of protest and repudiation of political orthodoxy arising from reaction to the Vietnam War; the opposition to nuclear weapons mobilized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the late 1950s was also an important element in the work of many writers of the time. Underground poetry in Britain became established as a recognized genre with the reading by Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael Horovitz, George MacBeth, Christopher Logue, Alexander Trocchi, and numerous others in the Royal Albert Hall in 1965. Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, Bob Cobbing, Adrian Mitchell, Michael McLure, Jeff Nuttall, and Pete Brown are also among the poets associated with ‘the underground’. The peak of the cultural activity of which underground poetry was a part was in 1968, when student riots occurred in Paris and elsewhere and the ‘Dialectics of Liberation’ congress was held over two weeks in London. The lyrics of many of the popular music groups of the period, notably some of the work of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, gave wide currency to the dissenting idealism typifying underground poetry. Michael Horovitz's edition of Children of Albion: Poetry of the ‘Underground’ in Britain (1969), and Bomb Culture (1968), a study of cultural tendencies by Jeff Nuttall, are two of the principal texts of the movement.

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