New Poets of England and America

According to the editors' preface to New Poets of England and America, Donald Hall and Robert Pack collected only by poets under the age of forty in the second edition of their anthology, and "poets appearing for the second time are represented by more recent work. Still, many new poets have been added." Both editors strive to "continue an emphasis on the new and the relatively unknown poets" in England and America.

That was 1962. If under-read then, many of those featured in this anthology are today's most noted contemporary poets. But Hall and Pack weren't interested only in launching a handful of careers. In separate introductions--Hall presenting the English, and Pack the American poets--the editors identify troubling aspects of the American poetry culture.

Hall, an American, claims, "People are writing some very good poems in England these days. Not many American critics will admit it, partly because they are ignorant and partly because they substitute an uncritical Anglophobia for the uncritical Anglophilia of their great-grandfathers." In other words, a standard of apathy prevents American readers from discovering new poetry from England. Hall believes:

Such limiting standards cannot last. I suspect that when the revolution of the sixties takes place, it will come in the name of Europe, and the Common Market will extend to poetry. When it comes, it will find that an excellent body of cosmopolitan poetry has already been written.

In Pack's introduction, he addresses the American culture of poetry, which he finds divided into "two camps, the Academics and the Beats." Popular appeal favors the latter, he says, because "gossip is more interesting than poetry." A poet "is interesting to the public . . . if he drinks himself to death, if he undresses at a poetry reading, or if he takes part in a presidential inauguration, but not for what his poems say or for their quality." In that light, Pack defends "Academic" poets, criticized for "tameness and uniformity," and selects their work for all its "variety, in subject, outlook, and style," with attention to experimentations with form. Pack believes "the careful reader will be astounded by the diversity of voices, of tight and of free forms that these poets have found."

Poets appearing in New Poets of England and America include Thom Gunn, Michael Hamburger, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, and Charles Tomlinson among the English. American poets include Adrienne Rich, Donald Justice, Sylvia Plath, W.S. Merwin, Louis Simpson, and Anne Sexton.