Poetry groups and movements or schools may be self-identified by the poets that form them or defined by critics who see unifying characteristics of a body of work by more than one poet. To be a 'school' a group of poets must share a common style or a common ethos. A commonality of form is not in itself sufficient to define a school; for example, Edward Lear, George du Maurier and Ogden Nash do not form a school simply because they all wrote limericks.
There are many different 'schools' of poetry. Some of them are described below in approximate chronological sequence. The subheadings indicate broadly the century in which a style arose.
The Oral tradition is too broad to be a strict school but it is a useful grouping of works whose origins either predate writing, or belong to cultures without writing.
The Castalian Band.
The Metaphysical poets.
The Cavalier poets.
Augustan poetry echoed the forms and values of classical antiquity. Favouring formal, restrained forms, it has recurred in various Neoclassical schools since the eighteenth century Augustan poets such as Alexander Pope.
Romanticism started in late 18th century Western Europe. Wordsworth's and Coleridge's 1798 publication of Lyrical Ballads is considered by some as the first important publication in the movement. Romanticism stressed strong emotion, imagination, freedom within or even from classical notions of form in art, and the rejection of established social conventions. It stressed the importance of "nature" in language and celebrated the achievements of those perceived as heroic individuals and artists. Romantic poets include William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats (those previous six sometimes referred to as the Big Six, or the Big Five without Blake); other Romantic poets include James Macpherson, and Robert Southey.
Pastoralism was originally a Hellenistic form, that romanticized rural subjects to the point of unreality. Later pastoral poets, such as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, and William Wordsworth, were inspired by the classical pastoral poets.
The Parnassians were a group of late 19th-century French poets, named after their journal, the Parnasse contemporain. They included Charles Leconte de Lisle, Theodore de Banville, Sully-Prudhomme, Paul Verlaine, Francois Coppee, and Jose Maria de Heredia. In reaction to the looser forms of romantic poetry, they strove for exact and faultless workmanship, selecting exotic and classical subjects, which they treated with rigidity of form and emotional detachment.
Symbolism began in the late nineteenth century in France and Belgium. It included Paul Verlaine, Tristan Corbiere, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stephane Mallarme. Symbolists believed that art should aim to capture more absolute truths which could be accessed only by indirect methods. They used extensive metaphor, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning. They were hostile to "plain meanings, declamations, false sentimentality and matter-of-fact description".
The Fireside Poets (also known as the Schoolroom or Household Poets) were a group of 19th-century American poets from New England. The group is usually described as comprising Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr..
In the 1890s the Confederation Poets came to prominence in Canada. Sir Charles G.D. Roberts and his cousin Bliss Carman, who spent much of their career in the United States, are the most famous, though contemporary critical opinion ranks Archibald Lampman and Duncan Campbell Scott as the better poets. Carman in particular gained fame from his Vagabondia collaborations with American poet Richard Hovey.
The Imagists were (predominantly young) poets working in England and America in the early 20th century, including F.S. Flint, T.E. Hulme, Amy Lowell, and Hilda Doolittle (known by her initials, H.D.). They rejected Romantic and Victorian conventions, favoring precise imagery and clear, non-elevated language. Ezra Pound formulated and promoted many precepts and ideas of Imagism. His "In a Station of the Metro" (Roberts & Jacobs, 717), written in 1916, is often used as an example of Imagist poetry:
- The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
- Petals on a wet, black bough.
Students at Montreal's McGill University formed the Montreal Group in the mid-1920s to spread the tenets of modernism in Canada. Modernist poetry did not catch on in that country for another 20 years; after it did, four of the Montreal Group - John Glassco, A.M. Klein, F.R. Scott, and A.J.M. Smith - would win the country's top literary honor, the Governor General's Award, for poetry; as would their contemporary, Dorothy Livesay.
The Objectivists were a loose-knit group of second-generation Modernists from the 1930s. They include Louis Zukofsky, Lorine Niedecker, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, and Basil Bunting. Objectivists treated the poem as an object; they emphasised sincerity, intelligence, and the clarity of the poet's vision.
The Confessionalists were American poets that emerged in the 1950s. They drew on personal history for their artistic inspiration. Poets in this group include Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, and Robert Lowell.
The San Francisco Renaissance was initiated by Kenneth Rexroth and Madeline Gleason in Berkeley in the late 1940s. It included Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, and Robin Blaser. They were consciously experimental and had close links to the Black Mountain and Beat poets.
The Movement was a group of English writers including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Donald Alfred Davie, D. J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings and Robert Conquest. Their tone is anti-romantic and rational. The connection between the poets was described as "little more than a negative determination to avoid bad principles."
The Hungry generation was a group of about 40 poets in West Bengal, India during 1961-1965 who revolted against the colonial canons in Bengali poetry and wanted to go back to their roots. The movement was spearheaded by Shakti Chattopadhyay, Malay Roy Choudhury, Samir Roychoudhury, and Subimal Basak.
The Martian poets were English poets of the 1970s and early 1980s, including Craig Raine and Christopher Reid. Through the heavy use of curious, exotic, and humorous metaphors, Martian poetry aimed to break the grip of "the familiar" in English poetry, by describing ordinary things as if through the eyes of a Martian.
The Language poets were avant garde poets from the last quarter of the 20th century. Their approach started with the modernist emphasis on method. They were reacting to the poetry of the Black Mountain and Beat poets. The poets included: Leslie Scalapino, Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, Barrett Watten, Lyn Hejinian, Bob Perelman, Rae Armantrout, Carla Harryman, Clark Coolidge, Hannah Weiner, Susan Howe, and Tina Darragh.
The New Formalism is a late-twentieth and early twenty-first century movement in American poetry that promotes a return to metrical and rhymed verse. Rather than looking to the Confessionalists, they look to Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur, James Merrill, Anthony Hecht, and Donald Justice for poetic influence. These poets are associated with the West Chester University Poetry Conference, and with literary journals like The New Criterion and The Hudson Review. Associated poets include Dana Gioia, Timothy Steele, Mark Jarman, Rachel Hadas, R. S. Gwynn, Charles Martin, Phillis Levin, Kay Ryan, Brad Leithauser.