What Are the Major Characteristics of Modern Age Poetry?

Modernist poetry and literature is characterized as a revolt against the prevailing Victorian aesthetic of the 19th century, with artists, intellectuals and writers rejecting tradition. Modernist poetry offerings varied, often in contradictory ways, but they are united by certain similarities: an economy of language, a habit of placing political, social and economic issues in a quasi-mythical context and a nostalgia for the past.

The Modern period took place roughly between 1901 and the end of World War II. Modernist poets wrote in free verse and in classical forms, and they embraced the past but also rejected it. Although all forms of literature underwent massive changes during this era, poetry in particular was affected by the image of the self-taught hermit disinterested in wealth and adulation. Poets began to explore increasingly more sophisticated and avant-garde themes and structures, stretching the boundaries of their craft.

Ezra Pound lead the Imagist movement, a group of poets who sought to boil language down to its essence and remove unnecessary words. The Imagists were reacting against pastoral poetry, which featured sweeping lush descriptions of the beauty of nature. T.S. Eliot, another famous Modernist poet, introduced a layering of meaning and a mix of high and low voices that influenced other Modernist poets.