Dennis will be talking to the Shakespeare Club of WA at 2.15 on Saturday 17 June, 2017 about the importance of Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry to contemporary poets and about differences between their situations and ours.
In an influential essay of 1921 T S Eliot praised “the later Elizabethan and early Jacobean poets” for the way that “their mode of feeling was directly and freshly altered by their reading and thought” and for their “direct sensuous apprehension of thought” . Eliot’s ideas provided the foundation of modern poetry and all poets since have been affected by it. Elizabethan poetry is notable for its intelligence (as is Eliot’s) and its wrestling with ideas and use of paradox has accorded with contemporary poets’ sense of the complexity of the world and the uncertainty of any philosophical beliefs. On the other hand, much has happened in the four centuries since the Elizabethans wrote, most importantly I think, the revolution of Romanticism, which Eliot was largely reacting against. Some aspects of Elizabethan thought and poetic technique have much to offer contemporary poets but other aspects seem unworkable today.
I will explore these ideas through a reading of a few Elizabethan and Romantic poems plus one of Eliot’s, and through comments on some of my own poetry. I will bring copies of my own poems to the meeting but it would be helpful if those attending could read in advance the following poems (which are readily available in poetry anthologies):
Shakespeare’s sonnet “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”; Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnet no. 1 in “Astrophil and Stella”; Donne’s “The Good Morrow”; Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight”; and Eliot’s “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”.