The following is a synopsis of Frederick Turner's article " 'Mighty Poets in Their Misery Dead': A polemic on the Contemporary Poetic Scene," which appeared in the Fall, 1980 issue of The Missouri Review. Turner begins by offering an opinion: "that no truly great poetry has been written in English since the Second World War." Distinguishing between mimetic and poietic theories of poetry, Turner argues that "just as 'classical' mimetic theory acted as a brake on the poetry of the eighteenth century, so a new version, 'modern' mimesis, is doing the same thing to ours." He argues that since the war there has been no major narrative, philosophical or religious poetry; no poetry with invented human characters; no satirical, epic or truly learned poetry; no verse drama; no important allegorical, tragic or comic poetry, no popular poetry and no major poetic fantasy. All of these are traditional forms and there is no reason, he argues, why a great writer, "unembarrassed by a crippling theory of art," should not be able to take up these ancient forms and make them speak to his own age. Turner argues that this would be no criticism if great poetic innovation were taking
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
Published: Oct 5, 1981
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