This book is the biography of a taste in poetry and its consequences. During the 1950s and 1960s, a generation of poets appeared who would eschew the restrained manner of Movement poets such as Philip Larkin, a generation who would, in the words of the introduction to A. Alvarez’s classic anthology The New Poetry, take poetry ‘Beyond the Gentility Principle’. This was the generation of Thom Gunn, Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Peter Porter.
William Wootten explores what these five poets shared in common, their connections, critical reception, rivalries and differences, and locates what was new and valuable in their work. The Alvarez Generation is an important re-evaluation of a time when contemporary poetry and its criticism had a cultural weight it has now lost and when a ‘new seriousness’ was to become closely linked to questions of violence, psychic unbalance and, most controversially of all, suicide.