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Revue des Littératures de l’Union Européenne

Issue n. 2

Forms and antiforms in the poetry of the second half of the 20th Century

Beyond their differences, which are evident and complex, European literatures share a common concern, which has been developed from the inside, with the form or rather the forms of the poetry of the second half of the 20th Century. In this period, poets could not help avoiding the problem of language and its relationship with the ‘places’ inhabited by language - verses, stanzas and poems - whether by trying to break the norms which came to define the poetic code or by attempting at reducing this gap by recuperating the classic forms.

If the landscape of poetry can indeed be clearly determined until the 50s, it is not possible to do so after then. The several anthologies published in Europe are a tangible sign of an attempt not only to regain an apparently absent public, but also to discover in the reception field, the trends inspired by the previous poetic movements and manifestos, which seem to resort to the binomial form/anti-form.

We can consider, under multiple perspectives, the post-war period as the most fertile period for the renewing of language and subject matter in poetry. On the one hand, we witness a natural prolongation of the early avant-gardes propositions, namely the research of a new poetic language, which combines the literary and artistic reflections and reconsiders the page as a writing space and the relationship between the formal sources of language and the poetic expression. Not even the poets who reject the idea of a perfect form, which has already been banished since the 20s, are anti-formal, but rather counter-formal. Thus they do not try to eliminate the problems of the language and its several substrata and instead try to ‘de-structure’ the language, rejecting any formal principle traditionally and culturally established, but not the form itself in absolute terms. On the other hand, the poetic research seems to take the opposite way: several poets throughout Europe refuse the anti-literary aspect of the avant-gardes and try to restore some of the essential aspects of the prosodic tradition. The attempt to renovate the language, which is central to poetry, is combined with a search for forms which indicates and announces, under certain regards, the return to formal aesthetics and a “classic” language.

The relationship between forms and anti-forms is also strategically discussed within the theoretical and practical universe of translation. It seems that the question of an equilibrated liaison between the translator and the forms has not yet been solved (and maybe never will be), if the latter, as it has been the case in the 20th Century, are not the simple legacy of a tradition nor an “ornament”, but a precise and deliberate attitude. This brief and limited survey of the European trends in poetry in the second half of the 20th Century aims at presenting a new issue of RiLUnE, devoted to the forms and anti-forms of European contemporary poetry.

Chiara Elefante
tr. Ana Pano

Articles - Release of this issue: September 15, 2005
Deadline for submissions: May 15

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