The Litany Historical Context

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The New Formalists

New formalism is a poetic movement, led by Gioia, that rejects the dominance of free verse (poetry that is not organized into recurrent units of stressed and unstressed syllables) in contemporary poetry. New formalists promote, instead, a return to traditional poetic meters (recurring regular units of speech sounds in a poem), rhymes, and stanza forms. Gioia, along with other new formalists like Charles Martin, Tom Disch, Phillis Levin, and Frederick Turner, has generated a sometimes heated discussion on the importance of prosody (the study of meter, rhyme, and stanza form) and the influence of past literary values. The theories of these poets are outlined in essays like Alan Shapiro's “The New Formalism,” in Critical Inquiry, and Gioia's “Notes on the New Formalism,” published in Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets and Poetry (1990), edited by James McCorkle. In his discussion, Gioia insists that attention to form does not...

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