Movement poetry is a term that is loosely used to refer to a group of poets who share a few common objectives. The term was first coined by Jay D. Scott in 1954 to refer to writers like Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, Thom Gunn, Elizabeth Jennings, Robert Conquest, John Wain, Donald Davie and D. J. Enright whose primary goal was to take English poetry to new heights, eschewing the influences of Imagists and the neo Romantic Symbolist poets.
The Movement poets are primarily opposed to the manifold traits exhibited by modernist poetry of the 1920s and 1930s. Through their works, they try to establish the erstwhile tradition of the English Canon that had been displaced by the onslaught of modernism.
The Movement poets lay stress on formal verse and lucidity in expression and are fervently anti-romantic in their tone and style. Irony and understatement become their leading vehicles of self-expression and they never seek to make grandiloquent claims regarding the superiority of the poet’s role in the creative evolution of a literary work.
The two representative anthologies associated with Movement poetry are Poets of the 1950’s edited by D. J. Enright and New Lines edited by Robert Conquest. Both these anthologies reflect the spirit of the Movement poets and their ideal of poetry. These works also offer a contrast between the Movement poems and the poems of the earlier decades.
According to Muhammad Naeem, the main difference is that they do not subscribe to any “theoretical constructs or to any agglomerations of unconscious commands” and is “free from both mystical and logical compulsions”, and “empirical in its attitude to all things”.
However, the Movement was not really a highly organised group with a neatly sketched agenda and common principles. The poetry of its members displays a marked difference in their poetic diction and treatment of themes. In spite of their idiosyncratic differences on a creative level, they do agree on a few common tenets that they tried to espouse through their poetry.