Studies in Literature and Culture
Art in the Poetry of Elizabeth Jennings
← 58 | 59 →Anna Walczuk
When Elizabeth Jennings was briefly associated with the so-called Movement in the 1950s, she was acclaimed by her fellow poets as a great talent and a most promising artist of the new generation. Kingsley Amis enthusiastically referred to her in his memoirs as “[t]he star of the show, our discovery” (after Leader 2009, 293). Later, when Jennings detached herself from The Movement and spoke with her own distinct voice, combining feminine lyricism and intense religious faith, she sustained her reputation as one of the most remarkable poetic personalities of the twentieth century, “a profoundly devotional, thoughtful and emotionally observant poet, one engaged in exploring love, joy, friendship, loneliness, depression, faith and poetics” (Mason 2012, xii). To this list of themes compiled by Emma Mason one could add one more issue which absorbed the poet throughout all her creative life, and was inextricably connected with her poetics, i.e. her preoccupation with art in general, its ontological status and epistemological potential. In one of her poems, “Moving Together” (1989),1 Elizabeth Jennings speaks of a quasi-mystical kinship of all arts for “the arts converge”; in consequence, she declares: “Poets must learn from paintings. Painters keep / An eye on words” (603).
The aim of this paper is to look upon Elizabeth Jennings’s impressive poetic oeuvre from the vantage point that she herself postulates, and to trace the convergence of her poetry with visual arts. Jennings evokes a great number of artists, especially painters, who figure in her poems either...
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