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The Forgotten ‘Pylon Poet’: Stanley Snaith’s Vision of Modernity

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle celebrates a neglected voice in modern poetry

The ‘Pylon Poets’ was the name given to a group of British poets writing in the 1930s, poets whose work deals with technological modernity. The poem which inspired the name of this ‘school’ of poets was Stephen Spender’s ‘The Pylons’, which is itself an enigmatic poem whose legacy is more famous than the poem itself.

But Spender’s wasn’t the only ‘pylon poem’ written in the 1930s about these new industrial features of the English landscape. The forgotten English poet Stanley Snaith also wrote a poem about them.

The name Stanley Snaith, it’s fair to say, isn’t exactly a famous one in the world of twentieth-century English verse. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page (not even a ‘stub’), and his name is absent from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). But let’s sketch out a few of the (sketchy) details of his life. Born in 1903, Snaith worked as a librarian and was also a keen mountaineer (one of the first results that comes up following a quick Google search of his name is this 1937 Spectator review of his book detailing a number of excursions to Everest – the summit, of course, would not be reached for another sixteen years). Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Stephen Spender’s ‘The Pylons’

A critical reading of an epoch-defining poem

Here’s a quiz question for you. How many poems can you name which have spawned the name of a whole poetic movement? A famous movement, too. One poem readily springs to mind: Stephen Spender’s ‘The Pylons’, whose title inspired the name of the ‘Pylon Poets’, 1930s British poets whose work deals with technological modernity. But ‘The Pylon’ is a mysterious poem: its legacy is more famous than the poem itself. What is the meaning of Spender’s poem? Read ‘The Pylons’ here to discover (or rediscover) it; what follows is our attempt to analyse this important poem that came to define an era in British verse.

‘The Pylons’ is written in quatrains, which loosely follow an abba rhyme scheme – but sometimes only very loosely. For instance, in the first stanza we find ‘cottages’ chiming faintly with ‘villages’ and ‘made’ with ‘roads’. Read the rest of this entry