‘Apocalypse I’ – Sheffield Hallam University hosting the first of two symposia on Apocalypse Poetry on 19 March 2022 – Full brochure now available

Apocalypse Poetry - Call for Papers banner

We are pleased to announce the full brochure, featuring itinerary, abstracts and speaker bios for Apocalypse I – the first half of the Apocalypse Symposium, taking place in Sheffield on Saturday 19 March 2022. You can find the brochure online by following this link:

Apocalypse 1 (Sheffield Hallam): symposium brochure with programme, abstracts and contributor details.

Tickets for both dates of the symposium are still available for booking via the University of Huddersfield event page. If you encounter any issues or have queries please do contact Dr Steve Ely (01484 472783).


A two-day, two-centre symposium organised by John Goodby, Professor of Arts & Culture, (Sheffield Hallam University), Professor Heather Clark, Director of the Centre for International Contemporary Poetry and Dr Steve Ely, Director of the Ted Hughes Network (both University of Huddersfield).

The 1940s, long dismissed as a ‘dire decade’ for English poetry, is increasingly being reassessed, and many of the poets who rose to prominence in the period are being recognised not only for the quality and importance of their work, but for their roles in developing the methods and techniques of early 20th century Modernism and in transmitting Modernism’s influence into subsequent decades. James Keery’s ground-breaking anthology Apocalypse (2020), is a major development in the further rehabilitation of the poetry of the 1940s, and is the catalyst for the two symposia:

  • Apocalypse I—Visionary Modernist and Expressionist Poetry of the 1930s and 1940s—will take place on Saturday 19 March 2022 at Sheffield Hallam University.
  • Apocalypse II—the legacies of Apocalypse: Visionary Modernist and Expressionist Poetry Since 1950—will take place on Saturday 12 November 2022 at the University of Huddersfield.

Apocalypse I (1940s)

The 1940s, long dismissed as a ‘dire decade’ for poetry, is increasingly being reassessed. The revaluation of individual poets, such as Dylan Thomas, Lynette Roberts, David Gascoyne and W.S. Graham, as well as of the New Apocalypse group (J.F. Hendry, G.S. Fraser, Henry Treece) and wartime poetry more generally, reveal the period to have been in reality one of the richest of the twentieth century. The flowering, under the impact of war, of a visionary modernist and myth-based poetic re-energised key Modernist figures of the 1920s, such as David Jones (The Anathemata), T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets), H.D. (The Towers Fall) and Edith Sitwell (‘Still Falls the Rain’) and produced its own enduring achievements in Deaths and Entrances (1946), The Nightfishing (1950), and Gods With Stainless Ears (1952). The expansive, neo-romantic and expressionist aesthetic of Apocalypse, along with the wartime dissolution of social constraints, allowed hitherto marginalized groups to come to the fore; women poets (e.g. Kathleen Raine, Elizabeth Jennings, Eithne Wilkins) were more prevalent than ever before, or would be again until the 1970s, as were working-class poets. Within England, a regionalist movement against Oxbridge / metropolitan dominance led to the emergence of poetry cultures in the north of England (e.g. Norman Nicholson), the south-west (e.g. Jack Clemo), and elsewhere, while a crucial point of origin for Apocalypse lay beyond England, particularly in Welsh, but also in Scottish and Irish poetry. Although placed in abeyance in the 1950s, and derided by academics and literary critics long after, the Apocalyptic 1940s may now be seen as a harbinger of what British poetry was to become.

The significance of Apocalypse poetry has most recently been demonstrated in James Keery’s anthology Apocalypse (2020). This immediately established itself as the classic text on the subject, and James himself will deliver the opening keynote address to this symposium

Subjects of papers might include: defining (New) Apocalypse poetry; individual poets and poetry collections; 1930s precursors (e.g. Lawrence, Yeats, Jung); key editors and journals; New Apocalypse group members; the New Apocalypse anthologies; individual Apocalypse poets; race and Apocalypse; Apocalypse poetry and the visual arts; visionary versus ironic modernism; Fitzrovia; the gender(s) of Apocalypse; Apocalypse and religion; Forces poetry; poetry and the Blitz; Apocalypse after Auschwitz and Hiroshima; the death of Apocalypse.

Cover art of Apocalypse - An Anthology by James Keery

Cover art of Apocalypse – An Anthology by James Keery

Apocalypse II (The Legacies of Apocalypse)

The impact of 1940s New Apocalypse poetry and its outriders on British and Irish poetry, long-suppressed in standard critical narratives, was profound and sustained. Those narratives sought to incorporate on their own Movement and Leavisite-influenced terms poets who drew on the Apocalypse tradition where it could not exclude them; this included such figures as Ted Hughes, Peter Redgrove, Geoffrey Hill, and Sylvia Plath. Some poets such as Ken Smith and Edwin Morgan complicated the picture, but the cold-shoulder was given for long periods to more formally-inventive Apocalypse-influenced poets such as Roy Fisher, Rosemary Tonks and W.S. Graham, while the avant-garde was wholly excluded, preserving an essentially Movement-centred model of ‘the English tradition’ until the early 1990s. At this point a pluralism largely shaped by market-defined ‘choice’ emerged in what might be called the ‘New Gen Moment’.

Welcome though this pluralism was, and unsatisfactory as terms such as ‘mainstream’, ‘alternative’ and ‘avant-garde’ etc. are, poetry reviewers, arts administrators, leading poetry journals and London-based poetry presses continued to fend off acknowledgement of the modernist- and Apocalypse-influenced strain in British poetry. Nevertheless, the figures, movements, and tendencies of post-WW2 English poetry — the Movement, the Martians, postmodernists, formal experimentalists, eco-poets, poets focussed on issues of gender, race and class, and of the lyric ‘I’ more generally – all stand in some definable relation to the Apocalyptic strain, however oblique or occluded.   Moreover, even a cursory trawl of social media is enough to reveal that each generation experiences its own sense of Apocalypse, banging or whimpering; a notion of a looming end of the world, whether this be by ecocide, climate change, populist politics, or the depredations of AI and cyberspace, as reflected in super-exploitation, demographic collapse, political persecution, and race, religious, gender and sexual discrimination.

A full understanding of the post-1940s and contemporary poetic manifestations of Apocalypse would include the influence of US poetry – from Dickinson, Crane, the Fugitives and Southern Agrarians, to the Beats, Black Mountain poets and beyond – and of European Expressionism in the visual and performance arts as well as poetry (for example of Yvan Goll, Georg Heym and Georg Trakl and, later, of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann), which fed New Apocalypse and post-WWII poetry via Modernism.

James Keery will also be giving a keynote opening address at this symposium.

Subjects for papers might include: redefinitions of Apocalypse in poetry; the relationship of Apocalyptic poetry to individual poets; the influence of Modernism, European Expressionism (including the visual / performing arts) and US poetry on post-1950 Apocalyptic poetry; Apocalypse and mainstream, avant-garde and other poetic traditions; Apocalypse, publishers and journals; the ‘tendentious narrative’ of canonical critical discourse; contemporary concepts of Apocalypse; individual poets and/or collections; ‘major poets’; ecopoetry.

You can find the call for papers for the symposia here.

The Apocalypse Poetry symposia are jointly organised by the University of Huddersfield, the Centre for International Contemporary Poetry at University of Huddersfield (CICP) and Sheffield Hallam University.

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