Eric Mottram and Old English: Revival and Re-Use in the 1970s

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Eric Mottram is best remembered as a scholar of American literature and as one of the central figures in the ‘British Poetry Revival’ during the 1970s. His own poetry has received little attention in literary studies, however, and the important role of Old English literature as a resource for Mottram and his circle has not been acknowledged, despite the recent critical interest in the use of the earliest English literature by twentieth-century poets. Yet the Anglo-Saxon past was a strong influence on several poets who sought to challenge the forms of more commercial poetry during the 1970s: it was used through innovative acts of adaptation, small press publishing and translation. This essay will uncover some of the ways Old English was used and re-used during the ‘Revival’ years, addressing the extent to which it contributed to new kinds of poetics by focusing on Eric Mottram’s work in particular. As a poet, editor and critic, Mottram was influenced by the creative translation projects of those he guided, such as his protégé Bill Griffiths, but his own poetry, especially his A Book of Herne (a collection of poems written 1975–1981), developed forms of collage that brought the early medieval past into collision with new ways of thinking about poetic form.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-454
Issue number290
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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