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Poetry and the News

Poetry and the News

Chapter:
(p.63) 2 Poetry and the News
Source:
Poetry and Its Others
Author(s):
Jahan Ramazani
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226083421.003.0002

Among poetry’s most powerful interlocutors in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been journalism. As the pressure of news has become increasingly pervasive, from the world wars to JFK’s assassination, the Irish Troubles, and the September 11 attacks, poets such as W. B. Yeats, William Carlos Williams, W. H. Auden, Louise Bennett, Louis MacNeice, Frank O’Hara, Robert Duncan, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Carolyn Forché, and Jorie Graham have refashioned poetry to absorb news stories, newspaper headlines, and news vocabulary. But poetry has defined itself against the news at the same time that it has ingested it. “It is difficult / to get the news from poems,” Williams famously wrote, implicitly characterizing poetry as an antigenre to the news: “yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Even as poets have drawn on the news, they have explored the differences between poetry and what Walter Benjamin saw as the commodified, transparent, and instantaneous discourse of journalism, foregrounding poetry’s long temporal horizons and deep memory, its obliquity and metaphoric density.

Keywords:   poetry and the news, W. B. Yeats, William Carlos Williams, W. H. Auden, Louise Bennett, Louis MacNeice, Frank O’Hara, Robert Duncan, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley

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