Looking back on the 1930s from the perspective of middle age, Robert Lowell described it as a time “when criticism looked like winning.” The years of Lowell’s apprenticeship were the golden age of the New Criticism, the intellectually rigorous, closely analytical style of reading that grew up alongside modernism in poetry. The New Critics — John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, R.P. Blackmur, Yvor Winters, and their cohorts and disciples — were mostly poets themselves, and they came to maturity just as the difficult masterpieces of Eliot and Pound — the honorary founders of the school — were revolutionizing the way poetry was written and read. All these poets turned to criticism in order to explain to themselves, and to the reading public, what modern poetry had become: an art that, in Tate’s words, “demands … in its writing and in its reading all the intellectual power that we have.”
more from The NY Sun here.