Stepping Out, Sitting In

Edward Brunner

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398779
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Stepping Out, Sitting In

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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This article discusses the role played by jazz and the blues in the development of modern poetry. It argues that modern poetry would not sound, move, or look the way it does were it not for jazz and the blues. Especially in the first half of the twentieth century, these arts evolved in tandem and the combination was explosive. The “new poetry” of the young practiced an art responsive to the vernacular, capable of registering fleeting moments inventively, and eager to address an audience ready to play against expectations. But when poetry aligned itself with jazz and the blues, it also embraced a minority culture in the process of defining its own history, its values, and its place. The dissonance, unexpected pauses, and off-rhythms that are staples of jazz and the blues gave rise, in poetry, to practices that not only helped de-center the meditative lyric from its position at the center of modern poetry but also re-described avant-garde practices as plausible tactics for engaging with everyday crises.

Keywords: jazz; blues; modern poetry; minority culture

Article.  16917 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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