The story of poetry has four phases in the last 300 years. There is Romanticism, Symbolism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. The Industrial Revolution sparked Romanticism, which was a time of a new, revolutionary outlook based on personal emotions. The inspiration of the arts and different ideas had the feeling of new beginnings. When people picture poets, it is from this time that the image is usually visualized. Lyric poetry, which was personal and intense was the popular style of poetry of the age. This gave a new vision of the universe and humanity’s place in it. The poetry was simpler. The ode was also popular and was passionate with a nature theme. The sonnet was written and was fashionable.
Science and technology in the Victorian period, saw big changes in poetry. Symbolism, the poetic movement, evoked feelings through poetry. It used magical language full of metaphors and similes to create states of feelings or awareness.
Modernism saw poetry through images in which the meaning of the poem was not stated straight out and which used a series of complex associations to intrigue the reader. There was less structure to the poem, and free verse, with no rhyme scheme and no meter, was introduced. Ballads were popular forms of poetry. The 20th century, saw an economic depression and two world wars. Information was more readily spread through radio, television, and telephone. There was experimentation and a radical break from the past, including poetry about the forbidden side of life. Imagism was a movement that was influenced by Greek classical poetry, Japanese haiku, and French Symbolism. Poems were short and direct, and delightful, more humorous. Originality became the new kind of poetry. Surrealism (a movement in the arts, literature, and film) explored the unconscious and topics like life and death.
The Postmodern period saw irony as a common thread. It questioned the establishment, and saw political controversy, a movement for human rights, and the emergence of feminism. Slam poetry has become popular, as poets recite their works in public forums. The poetry is often impromptu, crass, or harsh. Rap and hip-hop have became popular. There has been a mixing of styles, traditions, and ethnicities. Some poems rhyme, some don’t. Prose has become popular.
Through the last 300 years, poetry has changed and become the artform that anyone can write or read. It takes thought and feeling to understand and appreciate poetry in all its forms. It will be interesting to see where poetry goes from here.