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On Being Serious

On Being Serious

(p.59) Chapter Five On Being Serious
The Alvarez Generation
William Wootten
Liverpool University Press

This chapter analyzes the meaning of the phrase ‘new seriousness’ which has been used to characterize The New Poetry. Although the phrase may sound urgent and understandable at first reading, it is situated within a complex web of debts and implications. In the 1960s, the increased emphasis on one sort of seriousness, that of personal sincerity, became important at a time when seriousness as sanctioned by custom, tradition, social norm, oath and obligation became less binding. Marriage, for instance, may have been an exemplary form of an old seriousness, but it was being newly questioned in the lives of the poets. A. Alvarez defines seriousness as ‘the poet's ability and willingness to face the full range of his experience with his full intelligence; not to take the easy exits of either conventional response or choking incoherence’.

Keywords:   poems, poetry, new seriousness, A. Alvarez, poets, marriage

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