The Long Poem By Jaussen, Paul
In its most basic sense, the ‘long poem’ refers to any extended poetic work, from the long lyric to the epic. Within the context of modernism, the long poem emerged as a significant genre, channeling the authority and scope of the epic yet rejecting many traditional epic devices. Most notably, many modernist long poems abandoned narrative, replacing it with other organizational principles, ranging from symbolism to collage. The practice became particularly significant within the context of Anglo-American modernism, largely due to the influence of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, although the long poem can also be considered a transnational genre, with examples in French, such as Saint-John Perse’s Anabase (1924), and Spanish, like Federico García Lorca’s sequence Poeta en Nueva York (1940).
One of the most famous and influential examples of the genre is Eliot’s The Waste Land, published in 1922. Adapting mythological themes, literary allusions, and a symbolic framework, Eliot’s work combined the traditional historical rhetoric of earlier long poetics, from Chaucer to the Arthurian legends, with the language and concerns of World War I England.