The Tranquillized Fifties

Michael Thurston

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

The Tranquillized Fifties

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This article attempts to recover some of the cultural work of the more tightly constructed traditional stanzas and forms in which Robert Lowell himself had written his earlier poems. It sketches the career of closed form on the political Left during the tranquilized 1950s. Where much of the formal verse of the decade let the lyric's dream work release social tensions in managed and manageable ways, a good deal of poetry aimed at once to name and to arouse the will to change the causes of social stress. The article focuses on one exemplary Periodical—the communist magazine Masses & Mainstream—and on the work of four poets who published in the magazine and produced avowedly political poetry in conventional meters and stanzas, poetry that sought not to tranquilize but to awaken. These are Edwin Rolfe, Eve Merriam, Walter Lowenfels, and Aaron Kramer.

Keywords: Robert Lowell; American poets; modern poetry; stanzas; communist magazine; Masses & Mainstream; Edwin Rolfe; Eve Merriam; Walter Lowenfels; Aaron Kramer

Article.  8569 words. 

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

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