The Movement (literature)

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The Movement was a term coined in 1954 by Jay D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, to describe a group of writers including Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, and Robert Conquest. The Movement was essentially English in character as poets from other parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were not actively involved.


The Movement emerged with the uprising of the New Apocalyptic poetry after World War I with their main member: Donald Alfred Davie.[1] Although considered a literary group, The Movement saw themselves more as an actual movement with each writer sharing a common purpose. [2] The goal of The Movement was to write poetry that was anti-romantic and structured, avoiding poetry that was experimental in format and text.[3] From 1945 to 1955, The Movement was published through various magazines, the main magazine being The Spectator.[4]

The Movement is of great importance because of the way it created a new way of viewing the world based on Britain’s reduced dominance in world politics.[2] The group's objective was to prove the importance of British poetry over the new modernist poetry. The members of The Movement were not anti-modernists, however they were opposed to modernism, which was reflected in the Englishness of their poetry.[2]

It was The Movement which sparked the division between different types of British poetry. Their poems were nostalgic for the former Britain and filled with pastoral images of the decaying way of life as Britain moved farther from the rural and more towards the urban.[2]

Representative collections[edit]

The Movement produced two anthologies: Poets of the 1950s (1955) (editor D. J. Enright, published in Japan) and New Lines (1956). Conquest, who edited the New Lines anthology, described the connection between the poets as 'little more than a negative determination to avoid bad principles.' These 'bad principles' are usually described as excess, both in terms of theme and stylistic devices. Poets in the original New Lines anthology in 1956 included Kingsley Amis, Robert Conquest, Donald Davie, D. J. Enright, Thom Gunn, John Holloway, Elizabeth Jennings, Philip Larkin and John Wain.

The polemic introduction to New Lines particularly targeted the 1940s poets, the generation of Dylan Thomas[5] and George Barker — though not by name. A second New Lines anthology appeared in 1963, by which time The Movement seemed to some a spent force, in terms of fashion; the 'underground' in the shape of The Group, and the more American-influenced style of the Al Alvarez anthology The New Poetry having come to the fore. Ironically, interest in "The Movement" renewed in the early nineties, primarily in America, with the rise of the New Formalism and increased public interest in the work of Philip Larkin.

The Movement poets were considered anti-romantic, but we find many romantic elements in Larkin and Hughes. We may call The Movement, the revival of the importance of form. To these poets, good poetry means simple, sensuous content, traditional, conventional and dignified form.

In 1963, a sequel to the original New Lines anthology, titled New Lines 2 was published. It included many of the authors from the original anthology, as well as younger English poets like Thomas Blackburn, Edwin Brock, Hilary Corke, John Fuller, Ted Hughes, Edward Lucie-Smith, Anthony Thwaite and Hugo Williams.


The "Angry Young Men" movement occurred in 1956 during the turning point of The Movement.[6] The reason for The Movement’s decline was the publication of the New Lines anthology.[4] After the publishing of New Lines anthology, the group became less exclusive. It was no longer requisite for the members of The Movement to fight and defend one another's work as they had become accepted members of the literary world. The Movement’s decline in the 1960s was succeeded by “The Group” whose members included Philip Hobsbaum, Alan Brownjohn, Adrian Mitchell, Peter Porter, Edward Lucie-Smith and George MacBeth, Ian Hamilton’s Review school and Michael Horovitz’s "Children of Albion".[4] "The Group" was almost similar to "The Movement", as they shared similar ideas about the form and seriousness of modernist poetry.[2]



  • Enright, D. J. (editor) Poets of the 1950s: an anthology of new English verse, Tokyo, Kenkyusha, 1955
  • Morrison, Blake, The Movement, Oxford University Press, 1980