Introduction to the poetry and poetics of 1960

1960s: Days of Rage

Jacket2: On Brion Gysin, ‘Minutes to Go’

“Two months before 1960 commenced, Stanley Kunitz in Harper’s Magazine redefined the word ‘experimental’ to mean the inevitable resistance to any prevailing style for the sake of ‘keep[ing] it supple.’ Yet at the time of his writing, the turn of this new decade, ‘the nature of that resistance is in effect a backward look.’ The recent Pulitzer Prize winner added: ‘This happens not to be a time of great innovation in poetic technique: it is rather a period in which the technical gains of past decades, particularly the twenties, are being tested and consolidated.’ By using the phrase ‘the twenties’ Kunitz was referring to modernism’s American heyday. He meant expatriation, avid rule-breaking, aesthetic hijinx coinciding with social high hilarity. The Sixties, starting now, he averred, would be a time of modest ‘consolidation’ rather than of experiment.  Kunitz’s historical generalization would make better sense…

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