Search for Significance
In poetry, the first voice of great distinction was that of an untravelled male, R. A. K. Mason. In the 1920s he wrote a small number of highly individual, carefully worded, and deeply melancholy lyrics, which were recognised, in the next decade (No New Thing, 1934, This Dark Will Lighten, 1941, collected the fugitive publications of the 1920s), as an important achievement. Alone among the poets who may be called modern, he shows no trace of the revolution contemporaneously effected in England and America by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. His technical equipment is Georgian, his mood one of romantic despair, but his laconic accents quite his own.
In the same decade other poets were aspiring towards and, though less strikingly, achieving individuality. J. R. Hervey, J. C. Beaglehole, Eileen Duggan, Ursula Bethell, D'Arcy Cresswell, A. R. D. Fairburn, Robin Hyde – all to some degree refined their Georgian heritage and proceeded, most substantially in the 1930s, to write poems marked by authentic experience, professional competence, and intellectual stature. But by the 1930s the full impact of the Eliot-Pound revolution had been felt, and the lead was taken by those who assimilated these invigorating influences, and applied the lessons they thus learned to a more determined search for significance – individual, social, historical – than had before been the case. Five names may be singled out for emphasis: Fairburn, Ursula Bethell, and with them, Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch, and Denis Glover.