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date: 14 June 2024

The New Formalismlocked

The New Formalismlocked

  • Gerry Cambridge


The rise of New Formalism was probably the most significant development in American poetry in the last fifteen years of the twentieth century. It is a poetic movement that emphasizes writing in meter and rhyme, and to an extent narrative, against the institutionalized predominance of the free verse confessional lyric. Its proponents, however, have made exaggerated claims for it. At least equally exaggerated dismissals have been made by its detractors; such relatively innocent aesthetic choices as writing poetry in meter and rhyme or telling stories in one's poems have not only garnered accusations of political conservatism but have generated such vituperation on both sides that some commentators have somewhat hyperbolically referred to disputes over the movement as “the poetry wars.” By the turn of the millennium, however, New Formalism was an established part of the American poetry scene. Major little magazines such as the Hudson Review and the New Criterion have proved sympathetic to the movement's professedly populist aims, while smaller concerns such as The Formalist print only work in meter and rhyme. The movement has even found supporters in Britain. The Scottish-American poetry journal, The Dark Horse, founded in 1995, retains a British skepticism towards many aspects of the movement but has printed many of its poets and given review space to numerous New Formalist publications. Additionally, the movement has its own poetry conference. Run each June in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the conference is the only one in the country to foreground poetic technique. Founded in June 1995, it is reputed to be one of the largest poetry conferences in America. New Formalism now routinely merits entries in literary encyclopedias. Whatever the value of the work it has produced, its place as a socio-poetic phenomenon seems secure.


  • North American Literatures

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