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This chapter introduces the book’s main objectives and scope. After introducing modernism, the period that preceded the poetry under consideration in this book, this chapter provides an overview of the main features of post-1945 American poetry, explores poetry’s continuing relevance and cultural role in our current moment, and discusses three central, overlapping themes and issues that this book argues are at the center of contemporary poetry: self, language, and culture.
Contemporary American poetry can often seem intimidating and daunting in its variety and complexity. This engaging and accessible book provides the first comprehensive introduction to the rich body of American poetry that has flourished since 1945 and offers a useful map to its current landscape. By exploring the major poets, movements, and landmark poems at the heart of this era, this book presents a compelling new version of the history of American poetry that takes into account its variety and breadth, its recent evolution in the new millennium, its ever-increasing diversity, and its ongoing engagement with politics and culture. Combining illuminating close readings of a wide range of representative poems with detailed discussion of historical, political, and aesthetic contexts, this book examines how poets have tirelessly invented new forms and styles to respond to the complex realities of American life and culture.
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