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American literature refers to written or literary work produced in the area of the United

States and Colonial America. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see
Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States.


1 Overview
2 Colonial literature
3 Early U.S. literature
4 Unique American style
5 American lyric
6 Realism, Twain, and James
7 Turn of the century
8 Post-World War II
9 Contemporary American fiction
10 Minority focuses in American literature
11 Additional genres
12 References

13 External links

[edit] Overview
During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of
the present-day United States. Therefore, its literary tradition begins as linked to the
broader tradition of English literature. However, unique American characteristics and the
breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and

[edit] Colonial literature

Benjamin Franklin by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1777.

Some of the earliest forms of American literature were pamphlets and writings extolling
the benefits of the colonies to both a European and colonist audience. John Smith of
Jamestown could be considered the first American author with his works: A True
Relation of ... Virginia ... (1608) and The General Historie of Virginia, New England, and
the Summer Isles (1624). Other writers of this manner included Daniel Denton, Thomas
Ashe, William Penn, George Percy, William Strachey, John Hammond, Daniel Coxe,
Gabriel Thomas, and John Lawson.
The religious disputes that prompted settlement in America were also topics of early
writing. A journal written by John Winthrop discussed the religious foundations of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony. Edward Winslow also recorded a diary of the first years after
the Mayflower's arrival. Other religiously influenced writers included Increase Mather
and William Bradford, author of the journal published as a History of Plymouth
Plantation, 162047. Others like Roger Williams and Nathaniel Ward more fiercely
argued state and church separation.
Some poetry also existed. Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor are especially noted.
Michael Wigglesworth wrote a best-selling poem, The Day of Doom, describing the time
of judgment. Nicholas Noyes was also known for his doggerel verse.
Other early writings described conflicts and interaction with the Indians, as seen in
writings by Daniel Gookin, Alexander Whitaker, John Mason, Benjamin Church, and
Mary Rowlandson. John Eliot translated the Bible into the Algonquin language.
Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather represented the Great Awakening, a religious
revival in the early 18th century that asserted strict Calvinism. Other Puritan and religious
writers include Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, Uriah Oakes, John Wise, and Samuel
Willard. Less strict and serious writers included Samuel Sewall, Sarah Kemble Knight,
and William Byrd.
The revolutionary period also contained political writings, including those by colonists
Samuel Adams, Josiah Quincy, John Dickinson, and Joseph Galloway, a loyalist to the
crown. Two key figures were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. Franklin's Poor
Richard's Almanac and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin are esteemed works
with their wit and influence toward the formation of a budding American identity. Paine's
pamphlet Common Sense and The American Crisis writings are seen as playing a key role
in influencing the political tone of the period.
During the revolution itself, poems and songs such as "Yankee Doodle" and "Nathan
Hale" were popular. Major satirists included John Trumbull and Francis Hopkinson.
Philip Morin Freneau also wrote poems about the war's course.

[edit] Early U.S. literature

James Fenimore Cooper portrait by John Wesley Jarvis, 1822.

In the post-war period, The Federalist essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison,
and John Jay prepresented a historical discussion of government organization and
republican values. Thomas Jefferson's United States Declaration of Independence, his
influence on the Constitution, his autobiography, the Notes on the State of Virginia, and
the mass of his letters have led to him being considered one of the most talented early
American writers. Fisher Ames, James Otis, and Patrick Henry are also valued for their
political writings and orations.
The first American novel is sometimes considered to be William Hill Brown's The Power
of Sympathy (1789). Much of the early literature of the new nation struggled to find a
uniquely American voice. European forms and styles were often transferred to new
locales and critics often saw them as inferior. For example, Wieland and other novels by
Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810) are often seen as imitations of the Gothic novels
then being written in England.

[edit] Unique American style

With the War of 1812 and an increasing desire to produce uniquely American work, a
number of key new literary figures appeared, perhaps most prominently Washington
Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving,
often considered the first writer to develop a unique American style (although this is
debated) wrote humorous works in Salmagundi and the well-known satire A History of
New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). Bryant wrote early romantic and natureinspired poetry, which evolved away from their European origins. In 1835, Poe began
writing short stories -- including "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Pit and the
Pendulum," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" -that explore previously hidden levels of human psychology and push the boundaries of
fiction toward mystery and fantasy. Cooper's Leatherstocking tales about Natty Bumppo
were popular both in the new country and abroad.

History of modern

Humorous writers were also popular and included Seba Smith and
Benjamin P. Shillaber in New England and Davy Crockett,
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, Johnson J. Hooper, Thomas Bangs
The early modern
Thorpe, Joseph G. Baldwin, and George Washington Harris
writing about the American frontier.
16th century in
The New England Brahmins were a group of writers connected to literature | 17th
Harvard University and its seat in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The century in literature
European literature
core included James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth
in the 18th century
Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
1700s | 1710s | 1720s
| 1730s | 1740s |
In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an ex-minister,
published a startling nonfiction work called Nature, in which he 1750s | 1760s | 1770s
| 1780s | 1790s |
claimed it was possible to dispense with organized religion and
reach a lofty spiritual state by studying and responding to the
natural world. His work influenced not only the writers who
Modern Literature,
gathered around him, forming a movement known as
19th century
Transcendentalism, but also the public, who heard him lecture.
1800s | 1810s | 1820s
| 1830s | 1840s |
Emerson's most gifted fellow-thinker was perhaps Henry David 1850s | 1860s | 1870s
Thoreau (1817-1862), a resolute nonconformist. After living
| 1880s | 1890s |
mostly by himself for two years in a cabin by a wooded pond,
Thoreau wrote Walden, a book-length memoir that urges
Modern Literature,
resistance to the meddlesome dictates of organized society. His
20th century
radical writings express a deep-rooted tendency toward
Modernism |
individualism in the American character. Other writers influenced Structuralism |
by Transcendentalism were Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller,
Deconstruction |
George Ripley, Orestes Brownson, and Jones Very.
Poststructuralism |
Postmodernism | PostThe political conflict surrounding Abolitionism inspired the
colonialism |
writings of William Lloyd Garrison and his paper The Liberator, Hypertext fiction
along with poet John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher
1900s | 1910s | 1920s
Stowe in her world-famous Uncle Tom's Cabin.
| 1930s | 1940s |
1950s | 1960s | 1970s
In 1837, the young Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) collected
| 1980s | 1990s |
some of his stories as Twice-Told Tales, a volume rich in
symbolism and occult incidents. Hawthorne went on to write fullModern Literature
length "romances," quasi-allegorical novels that explore such
in Europe
themes as guilt, pride, and emotional repression in his native New
England. His masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter, is the stark drama of European literature
Modern Literature
a woman cast out of her community for committing adultery.
in the Americas
American literature |
Hawthorne's fiction had a profound impact on his friend Herman Argentine literature |
Brazilian literature |
Melville (1819-1891), who first made a name for himself by
Canadian literature |
turning material from his seafaring days into exotic novels.
Colombian literature |
Cuban literature |
Jamaican literature |
Mexican literature |
Peruvian writers

Inspired by Hawthorne's example, Melville went on to write novels rich in philosophical

speculation. In Moby Dick, an adventurous whaling voyage becomes the vehicle for
examining such themes as obsession, the nature of evil, and human struggle against the
elements. In another fine work, the short novel Billy Budd, Melville dramatizes the
conflicting claims of duty and compassion on board a ship in time of war. His more
profound books sold poorly, and he had been long forgotten by the time of his death. He
was rediscovered in the early decades of the 20th century.
Anti-transcendental works from Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe all comprise the Dark
Romanticism subgenre of literature popular during this time.

[edit] American lyric

Walt Whitman, 1856.

America's two greatest 19th-century poets could hardly have been more different in
temperament and style. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was a working man, a traveler, a selfappointed nurse during the American Civil War (1861-1865), and a poetic innovator. His
magnum opus was Leaves of Grass, in which he uses a free-flowing verse and lines of
irregular length to depict the all-inclusiveness of American democracy. Taking that motif
one step further, the poet equates the vast range of American experience with himself
without being egotistical. For example, in Song of Myself, the long, central poem in
Leaves of Grass, Whitman writes: "These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages
and lands, they are not original with me...."
Whitman was also a poet of the body -- "the body electric," as he called it. In Studies in
Classic American Literature, the English novelist D.H. Lawrence wrote that Whitman
"was the first to smash the old moral conception that the soul of man is something
`superior' and `above' the flesh."

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), on the other hand, lived the sheltered life of a genteel
unmarried woman in small-town Amherst, Massachusetts. Within its formal structure, her
poetry is ingenious, witty, exquisitely wrought, and psychologically penetrating. Her
work was unconventional for its day, and little of it was published during her lifetime.
Many of her poems dwell on death, often with a mischievous twist. "Because I could not
stop for Death" one begins, "He kindly stopped for me." The opening of another
Dickinson poem toys with her position as a woman in a male-dominated society and an
unrecognized poet: "I'm nobody! Who are you? / Are you nobody too?"

[edit] Realism, Twain, and James

Mark Twain, 1907.

Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) was the first
major American writer to be born away from the East Coast -- in the border state of
Missouri. His regional masterpieces were the memoir Life on the Mississippi and the
novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain's style -- influenced by journalism, wedded
to the vernacular, direct and unadorned but also highly evocative and irreverently funny
-- changed the way Americans write their language. His characters speak like real people
and sound distinctively American, using local dialects, newly invented words, and
regional accents. Other writers interested in regional differences and dialect were George
W. Cable, Thomas Nelson Page, Joel Chandler Harris, Mary Noailles Murfree (Charles
Egbert Craddock), Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Henry Cuyler Bunner,
and William Sydney Porter (O. Henry).
William Dean Howells also represented the realist tradition through his novels, including
The Rise of Silas Lapham and his work as editor of the Atlantic Monthly.
Henry James (1843-1916) confronted the Old World-New World dilemma by writing
directly about it. Although born in New York City, he spent most of his adult years in

England. Many of his novels center on Americans who live in or travel to Europe. With
its intricate, highly qualified sentences and dissection of emotional and psychological
nuance, James's fiction can be daunting. Among his more accessible works are the
novellas Daisy Miller, about an enchanting American girl in Europe, and The Turn of the
Screw, an enigmatic ghost story.

[edit] Turn of the century

Ernest Hemingway in World War I uniform.

At the beginning of the 20th century, American novelists were expanding fiction's social
spectrum to encompass both high and low life and sometimes connected to the naturalist
school of realism. In her stories and novels, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) scrutinized the
upper-class, Eastern-seaboard society in which she had grown up. One of her finest
books, The Age of Innocence, centers on a man who chooses to marry a conventional,
socially acceptable woman rather than a fascinating outsider. At about the same time,
Stephen Crane (1871-1900), best known for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of
Courage, depicted the life of New York City prostitutes in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.
And in Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) portrayed a country girl who moves
to Chicago and becomes a kept woman. Hamlin Garland and Frank Norris wrote about
the problems of American farmers and other social issues from a naturalist perspective.
More directly political writings discussed social issues and power of corporations. Some
like Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward outlined other possible political and social
frameworks. Upton Sinclair, most famous for his meat-packing novel The Jungle,
advocated socialism. Other political writers of the period included Edwin Markham,
William Vaughn Moody. Journalistic critics, including Ida M. Tarbell and Lincoln
Steffens were labeled the The Muckrakers. Henry Adams' literate autobiography, The

Education of Henry Adams also depicted a stinging description of the education system
and modern life.
Experimentation in style and form soon joined the new freedom in subject matter. In
1909, Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), by then an expatriate in Paris, published Three Lives,
an innovative work of fiction influenced by her familiarity with cubism, jazz, and other
movements in contemporary art and music. Stein labeled a group of American literary
notables who lived in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s as the "Lost Generation".
The poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was born in Idaho but spent much of his adult life in
Europe. His work is complex, sometimes obscure, with multiple references to other art
forms and to a vast range of literature, both Western and Eastern. He influenced many
other poets, notably T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), another expatriate. Eliot wrote spare, cerebral
poetry, carried by a dense structure of symbols. In "The Waste Land" he embodied a
jaundiced vision of post-World War I society in fragmented, haunted images. Like
Pound's, Eliot's poetry could be highly allusive, and some editions of The Waste Land
come with footnotes supplied by the poet. In 1948, Eliot won the Nobel Prize in
American writers also expressed the disillusionment following upon the war. The stories
and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) capture the restless, pleasure-hungry,
defiant mood of the 1920s. Fitzgerald's characteristic theme, expressed poignantly in The
Great Gatsby, is the tendency of youth's golden dreams to dissolve in failure and
disappointment. Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson also wrote novels with critical
depictions of American life. John Dos Passos wrote about the war and also the U.S.A.
trilogy which extended into the Depression.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, photographed by Carl van Vechten, 1937.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) saw violence and death first-hand as an ambulance
driver in World War I, and the carnage persuaded him that abstract language was mostly
empty and misleading. He cut out unnecessary words from his writing, simplified the

sentence structure, and concentrated on concrete objects and actions. He adhered to a

moral code that emphasized grace under pressure, and his protagonists were strong, silent
men who often dealt awkwardly with women. The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to
Arms are generally considered his best novels; in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in
Five years before Hemingway, another American novelist had won the Nobel Prize:
William Faulkner (1897-1962). Faulkner managed to encompass an enormous range of
humanity in Yoknapatawpha County, a Mississippian region of his own invention. He
recorded his characters' seemingly unedited ramblings in order to represent their inner
states, a technique called "stream of consciousness." (In fact, these passages are carefully
crafted, and their seemingly chaotic structure conceals multiple layers of meaning.) He
also jumbled time sequences to show how the past -- especially the slave-holding era of
the Deep South -- endures in the present. Among his great works are The Sound and the
Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, Go Down, Moses, and The Unvanquished.
Depression era literature was blunt and direct in its social criticism. John Steinbeck
(1902-1968) was born in Salinas, California, where he set many of his stories. His style
was simple and evocative, winning him the favor of the readers but not of the critics.
Steinbeck often wrote about poor, working-class people and their struggle to lead a
decent and honest life; he was probably the most socially aware writer of his period. The
Grapes of Wrath, considered his masterpiece, is a strong, socially-oriented novel that tells
the story of the Joads, a poor family from Oklahoma and their journey to California in
search of a better life. Other popular novels include Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men,
Cannery Row, and East of Eden. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.
Other writers sometimes considered part of the proletarian school include Nathanael
West, Fielding Burke, Jack Conroy, Tom Kromer, Robert Cantwell, Albert Halper, and
Edward Anderson.

[edit] Post-World War II

Norman Mailer, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1948

The period in time from the end of World War II up until, roughly, the late 1960s and
early 1970s saw to the publication of some of the most popular works in American
history. The last few of the more realistic Modernists along with the wildly Romantic
Beatniks largely dominated the period, while the direct respondents to Americas
involvement in World War II contributed in their notable influence.
From J.D. Salingers Nine Stories and The Catcher in the Rye to Sylvia Plaths The Bell
Jar, Americas madness was placed to the forefront of the nations literary expression.
migr Authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, with Lolita, forged on with the theme, and, at
almost the same time, the Beatniks took a concerted step away from their Lost
Generation predecessors.
The poetry and fiction of the "Beat Generation," largely born of a circle of intellects
formed in New York City around Columbia University and established more officially
some time later in San Francisco, came of age. The term, Beat, referred, all at the same
time, to the countercultural rhythm of the Jazz scene, to a sense of rebellion regarding the
conservative stress of post-war society, and to an interest in new forms of spiritual
experience through drugs, alcohol, philosophy, and religion, and specifically through Zen
Buddhism. Allen Ginsberg set the tone of the movement in his poem Howl a
Whitmanesque work that began: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness...." At the same time, his good friend Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) celebrated the
Beats' rollicking, spontaneous, and vagrant life-style in, among many other works, his
masterful and most popular novel On the Road.
Regarding the war novel specifically, there was a literary explosion in America during the
post-World War II era. Some of the most well known of the works produced included
Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) and
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).
Other notable authors of the period included Zora Neale Hurston, and Willa Cather,
confronting the African American condition and the condition of the immigrant,
respectively, in Their Eyes were Watching God and My Antonia.
Flannery O'Connor (b. March 25, 1925 in Georgia d. August 3, 1964 in Georgia) also
explored and developed the theme of 'the South' in American literature that was dear to
Mark Twain and other leading authors of American literary history (Wise Blood 1952 ;
The Violent Bear It Away 1960 ; Everything That Rises Must Converge - her best known
short story, and an eponymous collection published posthumously in 1965).

[edit] Contemporary American fiction

From roughly the early 1970s until present day, the most well known literary category,
though often contested as a proper title, has been Postmodernism. Notable, intellectually
well-received writers of the period have included Thomas Pynchon, Tim O'Brien, Don
DeLillo, Toni Morrison, and Joyce Carol Oates. Authors typically labeled Postmodern
have dealt with and are today dealing directly with many of the ways that popular culture

and mass media have influenced the average American's perception and experience of the
world, which is quite often criticized along with the American government, and, in many
cases, with America's history, but especially with the average American's perception of
his or her own history.
Many Postmodern authors are also well known for setting scenes in fast food restaurants,
on subways, or in shopping malls; they write about drugs, plastic surgery, and television
commercials. Sometimes, these depictions look almost like celebrations. But
simultaneously, writers in this school take a knowing, self-conscious, sarcastic, and
(some critics would say) condescending attitude towards their subjects. David Eggers,
Chuck Palahniuk, and David Foster Wallace are, perhaps, most well known for these
particular tendencies.

[edit] Minority focuses in American literature

Southern literature
African American literature
Jewish American literature
Gay literature
List of writers from peoples indigenous to the Americas
List of Asian American Writers

The poetry of the United States naturally arose first during its beginnings as the
Constitutionally-unified thirteen colonies (although prior to this, a strong oral tradition
often likened to poetry existed among Native American societies[1]). Unsurprisingly, most
of the early colonists' work relied on contemporary British models of poetic form,
diction, and theme. However, in the 19th century, a distinctive American idiom began to
emerge. By the later part of that century, when Walt Whitman was winning an
enthusiastic audience abroad, poets from the United States had begun to take their place
at the forefront of the English-language avant-garde.
This position was sustained into the 20th century to the extent that Ezra Pound and T.S.
Eliot were perhaps the most influential English-language poets in the period during
World War I.[2] By the 1960s, the young poets of the British Poetry Revival looked to
their American contemporaries and predecessors as models for the kind of poetry they
wanted to write. Toward the end of the millennium, consideration of American poetry had
diversified, as scholars placed an increased emphasis on poetry by women, African
Americans, Hispanics, Chicanos and other subcultural groupings. Poetry, and creative
writing in general, also tended to become more professionalized with the growth of
creative writing programs in the English studies departments of campuses across the


1 Poetry in the Colonies

2 Postcolonial Poetry
3 Whitman and Dickinson
4 Modernism and after
5 World War II and After
6 American Poetry Today
7 See also
8 References

9 External links

[edit] Poetry in the Colonies

Phillis Wheatley
One of the first recorded poets of the British colonies was Anne Bradstreet (16121672),
who remains one of the earliest known women poets who wrote in English.[3] The poems
she published during her lifetime address religious and political themes. She also wrote
tender evocations of home and family life, and of her love for her husband, many of
which remained unpublished until the 20th century. Edward Taylor (16451729) wrote
poems expounding Puritan virtues in a highly wrought metaphysical style that can be
seen as typical of the early colonial period.[4]
This narrow focus on the Puritan ethic was, understandably, the dominant note of most of
the poetry written in the colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Another distinctly American lyric voice of the colonial period was Phillis Wheatley, a
slave whose book "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral," was published in
1773. She was one of the best-known poets of her day, at least in the colonies, and her

poems were typical of New England culture at the time, meditating on religious and
classical ideas.[5][6]
The 18th century saw an increasing emphasis on America itself as fit subject matter for
its poets. This trend is most evident in the works of Philip Freneau (17521832), who is
also notable for the unusually sympathetic attitude to Native Americans shown in his
writings, sometimes reflective of a skepticism toward Anglo-American culture and
civilization.[7] However, as might be expected from what was essentially provincial
writing, this late colonial poetry is generally somewhat old-fashioned in form and syntax,
deploying the means and methods of Pope and Gray in the era of Blake and Burns.
On the whole, the development of poetry in the American colonies mirrors the
development of the colonies themselves. The early poetry is dominated by the need to
preserve the integrity of the Puritan ideals that created the settlement in the first place. As
the colonists grew in confidence, the poetry they wrote increasingly reflected their drive
towards independence. This shift in subject matter was not reflected in the mode of
writing which tended to be conservative, to say the least. This can be seen as a product of
the physical remove at which American poets operated from the center of Englishlanguage poetic developments in London.

[edit] Postcolonial Poetry

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1873.

The first significant poet of the independent United States was William Cullen Bryant
(17941878), whose great contribution was to write rhapsodic poems on the grandeur of
prairies and forests. Other notable poets to emerge in the early and middle 19th century
include Ralph Waldo Emerson , (18031882), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807
1882), John Greenleaf Whittier (18071892), Edgar Allan Poe (18091849), Oliver
Wendell Holmes (18091894), Henry David Thoreau (18171862), James Russell Lowell
(18191891), and Sidney Lanier (18421881). As might be expected, the works of these

writers are united by a common search for a distinctive American voice to distinguish
them from their British counterparts. To this end, they explored the landscape and
traditions of their native country as materials for their poetry.[8]
The most significant example of this tendency may be The Song of Hiawatha by
Longfellow. This poem uses Native American tales collected by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft,
who was superintendent of Indian affairs for Michigan from 1836 to 1841. Longfellow
also imitated the meter of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, possibly to avoid British
models. The resulting poem, while a popular success, did not provide a model for future
U.S. poets.

Emily Dickinson
Another factor that distinguished these poets from their British contemporaries was the
influence of the transcendentalism of the poet/philosophers Emerson and Thoreau.
Transcendentalism was the distinctly American strain of English Romanticism that began
with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Emerson, arguably one of the
founders of transcendentalism, had visited England as a young man to meet these two
English poets, as well as Thomas Carlyle. While Romanticism transitioned into
Victorianism in post-reform England, it grew more energetic in America from the 1830s
through to the Civil War.
Edgar Allan Poe was probably the most recognized American poet outside of America
during this period. Diverse authors in France, Sweden and Russia were heavily
influenced by his works, and his poem "The Raven" swept across Europe, translated into
many languages. In the twentieth century the American poet William Carlos Williams
said of Poe that he is the only solid ground on which American poetry is anchored.

[edit] Whitman and Dickinson

Walt Whitman.
The final emergence of a truly indigenous English-language poetry in the United States
was the work of two poets, Walt Whitman (18191892) and Emily Dickinson (1830
1886). On the surface, these two poets could not have been less alike. Whitman's long
lines, derived from the metric of the King James Version of the Bible, and his democratic
inclusiveness stand in stark contrast with Dickinson's concentrated phrases and short lines
and stanzas, derived from Protestant hymnals.
What links them is their common connection to Emerson (a passage from whom
Whitman printed on the first edition of Leaves of Grass), and the daring originality of
their visions. These two poets can be said to represent the birth of two major American
poetic idiomsthe free metric and direct emotional expression of Whitman, and the
gnomic obscurity and irony of Dickinsonboth of which would profoundly stamp the
American poetry of the 20th century.[9]
The development of these idioms can be traced through the works of poets such as Edwin
Arlington Robinson (18691935), Stephen Crane (18711900), Robert Frost (1874
1963) and Carl Sandburg (18781967). As a result, by the beginning of the 20th century
the outlines of a distinctly new poetic tradition were clear to see.

[edit] Modernism and after

Ezra Pound in 1913.

This new idiom, combined with a study of 19th-century French poetry, formed the basis
of the United States input into 20th-century English-language poetic modernism. Ezra
Pound (18851972) and T. S. Eliot (18881965) were the leading figures at the time, but
numerous other poets made important contributions. These included Gertrude Stein
(18741946), Wallace Stevens (18791955), William Carlos Williams (18831963),
Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) (18861961), Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914), Marianne Moore
(18871972), E. E. Cummings (18941962), and Hart Crane (18991932). Williams was
to become exemplary for many later poets because he, more than any of his peers,
contrived to marry spoken American English with free verse rhythms.
While these poets were unambiguously aligned with High modernism, other poets active
in the United States in the first third of the 20th century were not. Among the most
important of the latter were those who were associated with what came to be known as
the New Criticism. These included John Crowe Ransom (18881974), Allen Tate (1899
1979), and Robert Penn Warren (19051989). Other poets of the era, such as Archibald
MacLeish (18921982), experimented with modernist techniques but were also drawn
towards more traditional modes of writing. The modernist torch was carried in the 1930s
mainly by the group of poets known as the Objectivists. These included Louis Zukofsky
(19041978), Charles Reznikoff (18941976), George Oppen (19081984), Carl Rakosi
(19032004) and, later, Lorine Niedecker (19031970). Kenneth Rexroth, who was
published in the Objectivist Anthology, was, along with Madeline Gleason (19091973),
a forerunner of the San Francisco Renaissance.
Many of the Objectivists came from urban communities of new immigrants, and this new
vein of experience and language enriched the growing American idiom. Another source
of enrichment was the emergence into the American poetic mainstream of African
American poets such as Langston Hughes (19021967) and Countee Cullen (1903

[edit] World War II and After

Archibald Macleish called John Gillespie Magee, Jr. "the first poet of the war".[10]
World War II saw the emergence of a new generation of poets, many of whom were
influenced by Wallace Stevens. Richard Eberhart (19042005), Karl Shapiro (1913
2000) and Randall Jarrell (19141965) all wrote poetry that sprang from experience of
active service. Together with Elizabeth Bishop (19111979), Theodore Roethke (1908
1963) and Delmore Schwartz (19131966), they formed a generation of poets that in
contrast to the preceding generation often wrote in traditional verse forms.
After the war, a number of new poets and poetic movements emerged. John Berryman
(19141972) and Robert Lowell (19171977) were the leading lights in what was to
become known as the confessional movement, which was to have a strong influence on
later poets like Sylvia Plath (19321963) and Anne Sexton (19281974). Both Berryman
and Lowell were closely acquainted with modernism, but were mainly interested in
exploring their own experiences as subject matter and a style that Lowell referred to as
"cooked", that is consciously and carefully crafted.

Denise Levertov
In contrast, the Beat poets, who included such figures as Jack Kerouac (19221969),
Allen Ginsberg (19261997), Gregory Corso (19302001), Joanne Kyger (born 1934),
Gary Snyder (born 1930), Diane Di Prima (born 1934), Denise Levertov (19231997),
Amiri Baraka (born 1934) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919), were distinctly raw.
Reflecting, sometimes in an extreme form, the more open, relaxed and searching society
of the 1950s and 1960s, the Beats pushed the boundaries of the American idiom in the
direction of demotic speech perhaps further than any other group.
Around the same time, the Black Mountain poets, under the leadership of Charles Olson
(19101970), were working at Black Mountain College. These poets were exploring the
possibilities of open form but in a much more programmatic way than the Beats. The
main poets involved were Robert Creeley (19262005), Robert Duncan (19191988), Ed
Dorn (19291999), Paul Blackburn (19261971), Hilda Morley (19161998), John
Wieners (19342002), and Larry Eigner (19271996). They based their approach to
poetry on Olson's 1950 essay Projective Verse, in which he called for a form based on the
line, a line based on human breath and a mode of writing based on perceptions juxtaposed
so that one perception leads directly to another. Cid Corman (19242004) and Theodore

Enslin (born 1925) are often associated with this group but are perhaps more correctly
viewed as direct descendants of the Objectivists.
The Beats and some of the Black Mountain poets are often considered to have been
responsible for the San Francisco Renaissance. However, as previously noted, San
Francisco had become a hub of experimental activity from the 1930s thanks to Rexroth
and Gleason. Other poets involved in this scene included Charles Bukowski (19201994)
and Jack Spicer (19251965). These poets sought to combine a contemporary spoken
idiom with inventive formal experiment. Jerome Rothenberg (born 1931) is well-known
for his work in ethnopoetics, but he was also the coiner of the term "deep image". Deep
image poetry is inspired by the symbolist theory of correspondences. Other poets who
worked with deep image include Robert Kelly (born 1935), Diane Wakoski (born 1937)
and Clayton Eshleman (born 1935).
The Small Press poets (sometimes called the mimeograph movement) are another
influential and eclectic group of poets who also surfaced in the San Francisco Bay Area
in the late 1950s and are still active today. Fiercely independent editors, who were also
poets, edited and published low-budget periodicals and chapbooks of emerging poets who
might otherwise have gone unnoticed. This work ranged from formal to experimental.
Gene Fowler, A.D. Winans, Hugh Fox, street poet and activist Jack Hirschman, Paul
Foreman, John Bennett, Stephen Morse (born 1945), Judy L. Brekke, and F. A.
Nettelbeck are among the many poets who are still actively continuing the Small Press
Poets tradition. Many have turned to the new medium of the Web for its distribution
Just as the West Coast had the San Francisco Renaissance and the Small Press
Movement, the East Coast produced the New York School. This group aimed to write
poetry that spoke directly of everyday experience in everyday language and produced a
poetry of urbane wit and elegance that contrasts strongly with the work of their Beat
contemporaries. Leading members of the group include John Ashbery (born 1927), Frank
O'Hara (19261966), Kenneth Koch (19252002), James Schuyler (19231991), Richard
Howard (born 1929), Ted Berrigan (19341983), Anne Waldman (born 1945) and
Bernadette Mayer (born 1945).
John Cage (19121992), one-time Black Mountain College resident and composer, and
Jackson Mac Low (19222004) both wrote poetry based on chance or aleatory
techniques. Inspired by Zen, Dada and scientific theories of indeterminacy, they were to
prove to be important influences on the 1970s U.S avant-garde.
James Merrill (19261995), off to the side of all these groups and very much sui generis,
was a poet of great formal virtuosity and the author of the epic poem The Changing Light
at Sandover (1982).
Tomas O'Leary published Fool at the Funeral in 1975 and The Devil Take a Crooked
House in 1990. These two critically acclaimed books established O'Leary as a renowned
poet in the New England States.

[edit] American Poetry Today

The last thirty years in United States poetry have seen the emergence of a number of
groups and trends. While their importance has not yet been shown, they are nonetheless
visible forces in modern American poetry.

Nikki Giovanni
The 1970s saw a revival of interest in surrealism, with the most prominent poets working
in this field being Andrei Codrescu (born 1946), Russell Edson (born 1935) and Maxine
Chernoff (born 1952). Performance poetry also emerged from the Beat and hippie
happenings, and the talk-poems of David Antin (born 1932) and ritual events performed
by Rothenberg, to become a serious poetic stance which embraces multiculturalism and a
range of poets from a multiplicity of cultures. This mirrored a general growth of interest
in poetry by African Americans including Gwendolyn Brooks (born 1917), Maya
Angelou (born 1928), Ishmael Reed (born 1938) and Nikki Giovanni (born 1943).
The most controversial, avant-garde grouping during this period has been the Language
poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, after the magazine that bears that name).
Language-centered writing is extremely theoretical, discounting speech as the basis for
verse, and dedicated to questioning the referentiality of language and the dominance of
the sentence as the basic unit of syntax. The idea appears to be that language, when
stripped of its normal associative and denotative meanings, becomes closer to the source
of language and may actually provide insights that might not otherwise be possible.
Those critical of the Language movement point out that taken to its logical conclusion
this abandonment of sense and context creates a poetry that could be just as well be
written by the proverbial infinite sized room full of monkeys with an infinite number of
word processors.

The Language poets movement includes a very high proportion of women, which mirrors
another general trend; the rediscovery and promotion of poetry written both by earlier
and contemporary women poets. In addition to Language poets, a number of the most
prominent African American poets to emerge are women, and other prominent women
writers include Adrienne Rich (born 1929) and Amy Gerstler (born 1956).
The Language group also contains an unusually high proportion of academics. Poetry has
tended to move more and more into the campus, with a growth in creative writing and
poetics programs providing an equal growth in the number of teaching posts available to
practicing poets. This increased professionalization and abundance of academic presses
combined with a lack of any coherent process for critical evaluation is one of the clearest
developments and one which seems likely to have unpredictable consequences for the
future of poetry in the United States.
The 1980s also saw the emergence of a group of poets who became known as the New
Formalists. These poets, who included Molly Peacock, Brad Leithauser, Dana Gioia and
Marilyn Hacker, write in traditional forms and have declared that this return to rhyme and
more fixed meters is the new avant-garde. Critics of the New Formalists have compared
their traditionalism with the conservative politics of the Reagan era. It is intended as an
Many poets (A growing group of poets loosely called Outlaw Poets or Small Press Poets)
ignore what they see as the extremes and academic elitism of the self-proclaimed avantgarde of both poetic groups, choosing to use both traditional and experimental
approaches to their work.
Concurrently, a Chicago construction worker named Marc Smith was growing bored with
increasingly esoteric academic poetry readings. In 1984, at the Get Me High Lounge,
Smith devised the format that has come to be known as slam poetry. A competitive poetry
performance, poetry slam opened the door for a new generation of writers, spoken word
performers, and audiences by emphasizing a style of writing that is edgy,topical, and
easily understood.
Poetry slam has produced noted poets like Alix Olson, Taylor Mali, and Saul Williams, as
well as inspired hundreds of open mics.

List of poets from the United States

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The poets listed below were either born in the United States or else published much of
their poetry while living in that country.

[edit] A

Henry Abbey (18421911)

Sam Abrams (born 1935)
Kathy Acker (19471997)
Diane Ackerman (born 1956)
Duane Ackerson
Mercedes de Acosta (18931968)
Virginia Hamilton Adair (19132004)
Helen Adam (19091993)
John Adams (poet) (17041740)
Lonie Adams (18991988)
Kim Addonizio (born 1954)
Herbert Agar (18971980)
James Agee (19091955)
Ai (poet) (born 1947)
Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)
Salman Akhtar (born 1946)
Ammiel Alcalay (born 1956)
Sherman Alexie (born 1966)
Felipe Alfau (19021999)
Sophia Ali (born 1964)
Alice Corbin Henderson (18811949)
William Allegrezza (born 1974)
Dick Allen
Donald Allen (19122004)
Elizabeth Chase Allen (1832 1911)
Ron Allen (playwright) (born 1947)
Washington Allston (1779 1843)
Alurista (born 1947)
Julia lvarez (born 1950)
Todd Ames (born 1970)
Indran Amirthanayagam (born 1960)
A.R. Ammons (1926-2001)
Victor Anderson (1917-2001)
Bruce Andrews (born 1948)
Kevin Andrews (writer) (1924 1989)

Ron Androla (born 1954)

Ralph Angel (born 1951)
Maya Angelou (born 1928)
David Antin (born 1932)
Antler (born 1946)
"Brother Antoninus" William Everson (19121994)
Susanne Antonetta (born 1956)
Philip Appleman (born 1926)
Adrian Arancibia (born 1971)
Rae Armantrout (born 1947)
Richard Armour (poet) (19061989)
Craig Arnold (born 1967)
M. K. Asante, Jr.
John Ashbery (born 1927)
Augusta Emma Stetson (1842-1928)
Joseph Auslander ((1897-1965)
Paul Auster
Jimmy Autrey
Autum Ashante
James L. Avery, Sr.
Jody Azzouni (born 1954)

[edit] B

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Bellamy Bach
Joseph M. Bachelor
Mahnaz Badihian
Vyt Bakaitis
Jesse Ball (born 1978)
Russell Banks
Amiri Baraka (aka Leroi Jones) (born 1934)
David Baratier (born 1970)
Coleman Barks
Mary Barnard
Djuna Barnes
Catherine Barnett
Candy Barr
Laird Barron
Bertha Hirsch Baruch
Todd Bash
Arlo Bates
David Bates (poet)
Charles Baxter (author)
Abel Beach

Ray Young Bear

Kenneth Lawrence Beaudoin
George Beck
Julian Beck
Joshua Beckman
Ethel Lynn Beers
Marvin Bell
Stephen Vincent Bent
William Rose Bent
Park Benjamin (poet)
Nelson Bentley
Bill Berkson
David Berman (singer)
Charles Bernstein (born 1950)
Steven Jesse Bernstein (19501991)
Anselm Berrigan
Ted Berrigan (19341983)
Wendell Berry (born 1934)
John Berryman (19141972)
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Lorraine Bethel
Helen Bevington
Frank Bidart (born 1939)
Ambrose Bierce
Linda Bierds
David Biespiel
Bill Keith
Elizabeth Bishop (19111979)
Sophie Cabot Black (born 1958)
John Peale Bishop
Baxter Black
Paul Blackburn (19261971)
Paul Blackburn (U.S. poet)
Nicole Blackman
Kimberly M. Blaeser
Don Blanding
Robin Blaser
Anthony Bleecker
Benjamin Paul Blood (18321919)
Henry Ames Blood
Roberts Blossom
Robert Bly (born 1926)
Anne Bradstreet (ca. 16121672)
D. A. Blyler
Maxwell Bodenheim

Jean Boese
Louise Bogan
Katherine Bond
Arna Bontemps
Bruce Boston
Jenny Boully
Kay Boyle
William Brandon (author)
Beth Brant
Richard Brautigan (19351984)
Kate Braverman
Donari Braxton
Joseph Payne Brennan (19181990)
Ken Brewer (19412006)
Sarah Brinklow
John Malcolm Brinnin (19161999)
James Brock (born 1958)
Joseph Brodsky (1940 1996),
Louis Daniel Brodsky (born 1941)
William Bronk (19181999)
Charles Timothy Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks (19172000)
Maria Gowen Brooks (1795?1845)
"Brother Antoninus" William Everson (19121994)
Alice Brown (writer)
Rita Mae Brown
Francis Fisher Browne
William Cullen Bryant (17941878)
Jack Buck
Charles Bukowski (19201994)
David R. Bunch
Henry Cuyler Bunner
Graham Burchell
Jos Antonio Burciaga
Stanley Burnshaw
Amelia Josephine Burr
William S. Burroughs (19141997)
Maxwell Struthers Burt
Ray Buttigieg (born 1955)
W. E. Butts
Witter Bynner
Gilbert Byron
Su Byron

[edit] C

John Cage
Scott Cairns
Andrew Calimach
Joseph N. Cameron
Julia Cameron
James Edwin Campbell (poet)
Mary Baine Campbell
Melville Henry Cane
Skipwith Cannell
Joe Cardarelli
Jim Carroll
Hayden Carruth
Guy Wetmore Carryl (18731904)
Jared Carter
Carolyn Joyce Carty (born 1957)
Raymond Carver (19381988)
Phoebe Cary
Sandra M. Castillo
Ana Castillo
Madison Cawein
Joseph Ceravolo
Richard Wayne Chambliss, Jr.
William Ellery Channing (18181901)
Arthur Chapman (18741935)
John Jay Chapman
Fred Chappell
Alexander Chee
Neeli Cherkovski (born 1945)
Maxine Chernoff
Bob Cherry
Anglico Chvez
John Ciardi
Noah Cicero
Sandra Cisneros
Amy Clampitt
Tom Clark (poet)
John Clarke (poet)
Pearl Cleage
Shihan van Clief(born 1975)
Lucille Clifton
Joshua Clover
Stanton A. Coblentz
Andrei Codrescu
Robert P. T. Coffin

Ira Cohen
Nan Cohen
Henri Cole
Norma Cole
Wanda Coleman
Billy Collins (born 1941)
Betsy Colquitt (born 1927)
Shanna Compton (born 1970)
Hilda Conkling
Evan S. Connell
Leo Connellan (19282001)
Gillian Conoley
Matt Cook
Rose Terry Cooke
Ina Coolbrith
Clark Coolidge
Dennis Cooper
Jake Copass
William Corbett
Billy Corgan
Cid Corman (19242004)
Gregory Corso (19302001)
Jayne Cortez
Joe Cottonwood
Henri Coulette
John Cournos
Elise Cowen
Louis O. Coxe
Christopher Pearse Cranch
Hart Crane, (18991932)
Stephen Crane, (18711900)
Adelaide Crapsey
Gary William Crawford
Robert Creeley (19262005)
Harry Crosby (18981929)
Countee Cullen (19031946)
E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)
Bloodgood Cutter

[edit] D

Hugh Antoine d'Arcy

Steve Dalachinsky
Enid Dame

S. Foster Damon
Jim Daniels (born 1956)
Tina Darragh
Robert von Dassanowsky
Guy Davenport
Donald Davidson (poet)
Gustav Davidson
Michael Davidson (born 1944)
Alan Davies (poet)
Dale Davis (poet)
Gwen Davis
Clarence Day
Jaime de Angulo
Caridad de la Luz
William F. DeVault (born 1955)
Philip F. Deaver
Edwin Denby (poet)
Richard Denner
Reuel Denney
Carl Dennis
Tory Dent
Babette Deutsch
Ray DiPalma
George Dickerson
James Dickey (19231997)
Emily Dickinson (18301886)
R. H. W. Dillard (born 1937)
George Dillon
Linh Dinh (born 1963)
Ray DiPalma (born 1943)
Diane Di Prima (born 1934)
Thomas M. Disch (1940)
Patricia Dobler
Stephen Dobyns (1941)
Owen Dodson
John Dolan (writer)
Nathan Haskell Dole
Sonya Dorman
Ed Dorn (19291999)
Julia Caroline Dorr
Mark Doty
Franz Douskey
Rita Dove (1952)
Kirby Doyle
Joseph Rodman Drake (17951820)

Will Allen Dromgoole

Celia Dropkin
Norman Dubie
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Bruce Ducker
Alan Dugan (born 19232003)
Henry Dumas
Paul Laurence Dunbar (18721906)
Robert Duncan (19191988)
Jim Dunlap
Stephen Dunn
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Job Durfee
Stuart Dybek (born 1942)
Bob Dylan (born 1941)

[edit] E

Cornelius Eady
Pliny Earle (physician)
Richard Eberhart (1904-2005)
David Edelstadt
Russell Edson
Kari edwards
Max Ehrmann
Larry Eigner (19271996)
Loren Eiseley
Che Elias
T. S. Eliot (18881965)
Ana Elsner
Lynn Emanuel
Claudia Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
R. M. Engelhardt
Paul Engle
Theodore Enslin (born 1925)
Daniel Mark Epstein
Clayton Eshleman (born 1935)
Martn Espada
Willard R. Espy
Maggie Estep
David Allan Evans
Mari Evans
William Everson Brother Antoninus (19121994)

[edit] F

Ruth Fainlight
B.H. Fairchild
William Clark Falkner
Roger Fanning
Norma Farber
Patricia Fargnoli
John Chipman Farrar
Jessie Redmon Fauset
Kenneth Fearing
Frederick Feirstein
Irving Feldman (born 1928)
Paul Fericano
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, (born 1919)
Eugene Field
Rachel Field
James Thomas Fields
Fireside Poets
Ann Fisher-Wirth
Tom Fitzgerald (poet)
Bob Flanagan
Terrence Fleming
John Gould Fletcher
Roland Flint
Douglas Florian
Nick Flynn
Jack Foley (poet)
Carolyn Forch (born 1950)
John M. Ford
Gary Forney
Sam Walter Foss (18581911)
Skip Fox
Michael Frauenhofer
Robert Frazier
Philip Freneau (17521832)
Larry Friefeld (born 1941)
Robert Frost (18741963)
Gwen Frostic
Nan Fry
Alice Fulton (born 1952)

[edit] G

Forrest Gander (born 1956

Deborah Garrison (born 1965)
Theodor Seuss Geisel (19041991)
Jack Gilbert
Strickland Gillilan (18691954)
Allen Ginsberg (19261997)
Nikki Giovanni (born 1943)
Peter Gizzi (born 1959)
Jesse Glass (born 1954)
Louise Glck (born 1943)
Terry Godbey
Kenneth Goldsmith (born 1961)
Laurence Goldstein
Rodolfo Gonzales
Rigoberto Gonzlez
Elaine Goodale
Kevin Goodan
Alice Goodman
Paul Goodman (writer)
Hedwig Gorski (born 1949)
Ann Gottesman
Janice Gould
David Graham (American poet)
Jorie Graham
Judy Grahn
Linda Gregerson
Linda Gregg
Debora Greger
Gregory Greyhawk
Horace Gregory
Robert Grenier (poet)
Angelina Weld Grimke
Charlotte Forten Grimk
Lee Groban
Allen Grossman
Barbara Guest (19202006)
Edgar Guest (18911959)
Patty Guilmette (author/poet) (born 1964)
Louise Imogen Guiney
Arthur Guiterman
R. S. Gwynn
Brion Gysin (19161986)

[edit] H

Marilyn Hacker (born 1942)

Hermann Hagedorn
Jessica Hagedorn
Richard Hague
Kimiko Hahn (born 1955)
Donald Hall
Irma P. Hall
Fitz-Greene Halleck
Moyshe-Leyb Halpern
Barbara Hamby
Jupiter Hammon
Jeff Hardy
William Harmon
Jeff Harrison
Jim Harrison (born 1937)
Carla Harryman (born 1952)
Robert Hass
Katherine Hastings
Julian Hawthorne
Robert Hayden (19131980)
Terrance Hayes
Paul Hamilton Hayne
William Shakespeare Hays
Trebor Healey
Eloise Klein Healy
Anthony Hecht (19232004)
Jennifer Michael Hecht
Lyn Hejinian (born 1941)
Michael Heller
Essex Hemphill
Alice Corbin Henderson
Oliver Herford
William Heyen
Bob Hicok
Dick Higgins
Scott Hightower (born 1952)
Conrad Hilberry (born 1928)
Owen Hill
Robert Hillyer
Ellen Hinsey
Edward Hirsch
Jane Hirshfield (born 1953)
Jack Hirschman
H.L. Hix
Linda Hogan (born 1947)

Tony Hoagland
Daniel Hoffman
Roald Hoffmann
John Hollander (born 1929)
Bill Holm (poet)
Bob Holman
M. Carl Holman
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (18091894)
Dennis Holt (born 1942)
Garrett Hongo
Edwin Honig (born 1919)
George Moses Horton
Joan Houlihan
Richard Howard (born 1929)
Fanny Howe (born 1940)
Julia Ward Howe
Marie Howe
Susan Howe
Susan Howe (born 1937)
Helen Hoyt
Lindley Williams Hubbell
Chris Huff (born 1990)
Langston Hughes (19021967)
Richard Hugo (19231982)
Constance Hunting (19252006)
Cynthia Huntington
Siri Hustvedt

[edit] I-J

David Ignatow (19141997)

Arthur Crew Inman
P. Inman
David Jaffin
Josephine Jacobsen
Afdhere Jama
James Cummins
J. J. Jameson
Patricia Janus
Joseph Jarman
Lisa Jarnot (born 1967)
Randall Jarrell (19141965)
Robinson Jeffers, (18871962)
Ferenc Gabriel Joachim
Ted Joans

Orrick Glenday Johns

Denis Johnson
Georgia Douglas Johnson
Helene Johnson
Josephine Winslow Johnson
James Weldon Johnson (18711938)
Robert Underwood Johnson (18531937)
Sarah Jones (stage)
Bernard Jonientz
Ryan David Jooste
June Jordan
Pierre Joris
Andrew Joron
Lawrence Joseph
Matthew Josephson
Frank Judge
Donald Justice

[edit] K

Sheema Kalbasi
Chester Kallman
Ilya Kaminsky
Lenore Kandel
Mary Karr
Julia Kasdorf
Janet Kauffman (born 1945)
Herbert Kaufman
W. B. Keckler
John Keene (writer)
Weldon Kees (19141955)
Brigit Pegeen Kelly (born 1951)
Collin Kelley
Jamie Kennedy (poet)
Richard Kenney
Maurice Kenney
Jane Kenyon
Jack Kerouac (19221969)
Sophie Kerr
Francis Scott Key
Laurel Elizabeth Keyes
Bill Keith
D. Kildare
Aline Murray Kilmer
Joyce Kilmer

Val Kilmer
Suji Kwock Kim
Jack Kimball
Kimiko Hahn
Haven Kimmel
Amy King
Galway Kinnell (born 1927)
Susan Kinsolving
Mary Kinzie
David Kirby (poet)
Lincoln Kirstein (19071996)
Carolyn Kizer
August Kleinzahler (born 1949)
William Kloefkorn
Etheridge Knight(19331991)
Kenneth Koch (19252002)
Wayne Koestenbaum
Yusef Komunyakaa (born 1948)
Ted Kooser
Alfred Kreymborg
Maxine Kumin
Stanley Kunitz (19052006)
Laurie Kutchins
Joanne Kyger (born 1934)

[edit] L

Christine E. Laine
Philip Lamantia
Fran Landesman
Landis Everson
Joseph Langland
Sidney Lanier (18421881)
George Parsons Lathrop
Richmond Lattimore
Sanders Anne Laubenthal
James Laughlin
Ann Lauterbach
Dorianne Laux
James Lavilla-Havelin
William P. Lawrence
John Edward Lawson
Robert Lax (19152000)
Emma Lazarus
Kelly Le Fave

Li-Young Lee
Malka Lee
Samantha V. Lee
Lemon (poet)
Aya de Leon
Ben Lerner
David Lerner
Jimmy Lerner
Rika Lesser
Denise Levertov (19231997)
Dana Levin
Philip Levine (born 1928)
Larry Levis
D. A. Levy
William Levy
Alonzo Lewis
Robert W. Lewis
Charles Lillard
Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Vachel Lindsay (18791931)
Amon Liner
Linh Dinh
Sara Jane Lippincott
Jonathan Lamas
George Cabot Lodge
Ron Loewinsohn
Naomi Long Madgett (born 1923)
James Longenbach
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (18071882)
Audre Lorde, (born 1934)
Amy Lowell (18741925)
James Russell Lowell (18191891)
Maria White Lowell
Robert Lowell (19171977)
Walter Lowenfels
Mina Loy
Felipe Luciano
Tom Luffman
Lydia Lunch
Masiela Lusha
Thomas Lux
William Whittingham Lyman Jr
Thomas Lynch (born 1948)

[edit] M

Cynthia Macdonald
Jackson Mac Low
Carlyle Ferren MacIntyre
Percy MacKaye
Nathaniel Mackey
Archibald MacLeish (18921982)
Naomi Long Madgett
Haki R. Madhubuti
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Frank Richard Maloney
Tom Mandel (poet)
Donna M. Marbach
Djelloul Marbrook
Sheldon James Martin (born 1945)
Joseph Moncure March
Edwin Markham
Don Marquis
David Mason (writer)
Matt Mason
Steve Mason
Edgar Lee Masters (18681950
Harry Mathews
William Matthews (19421997)
John Matthias
Kevin Max
Bernadette Mayer
Frances Mayes
Janet McAdams
Robert McAlmon
Jack McCarthy
J. D. McClatchy
Michael McClure
Michael McFee
Bryant H. McGill (born 1969)
Karyna McGlynn
Mac McGovern (poet)
Michael McGovern (poet)
Campbell McGrath
Thomas McGrath (poet)
Tayla McGregor (poet)

Claude McKay (18891948)

Louis McKee

Rod McKuen
James McMichael (born 1939)
Louise McNeill
Alexander Beaufort Meek
Abel Meeropol
Joshua Mehigan
David Meltzer
Herman Melville (born 18191890)
Samuel Menashe (born 1925)
William Meredith (born 1919)
Billy Merrell
Eve Merriam
James Merrill (19261995)
Stuart Merrill (18631915)
Thomas Merton (19151968)
W.S. Merwin (born 1927)
Tom Meschery
Sarah Messer (born 1966)
Robert Mezey
Diane Middlebrook
Josephine Miles (19111985)
Joseph Millar
Edna St. Vincent Millay (18921950)
Alice Duer Miller
Rev. Jen Miller
Joaquin Miller (18371913)
Leslie Adrienne Miller
May Miller
Tim Miller
Vassar Miller
Deborah A. Miranda
John Kearsley Mitchell
Susan Mitchell
K. Silem Mohammad
Paul Monette
Marion Montgomery (poet)
Jos Montoya
William Vaughn Moody
Clara Jessup Moore
Charles Leonard Moore
Daniel Moore
Jacqueline S. Moore
Jessica Care Moore
Julia A. Moore

Marianne Moore (18871972)

Pat Mora
Barbara Moraff
A. F. Moritz
Hilda Morley (19161998)
George Frederick Morgan (19222004)
Richard Morris (author)
Tracie Morris
Jim Morrison (19431971)
Bradford Morrow
Elizabeth Cutter Morrow
Stephen Morse (born 1945)
John Most (born 1977)
Jennifer Moxley (born 1964)
Viggo Mortensen
Howard Moss
Thylias Moss
John Most
Louise Chandler Moulton
Anna Cora Mowatt
Lisel Mueller (born 1924)
Harryette Mullen
Charles Muoz
Erin Murphy (poet)
Sheila Murphy
Pauli Murray
Sheila Murphy

[edit] N

Vladimir Nabokov
Ogden Nash (19021971)
John Neal
John Neihardt
Jill Neimark
Joel M. Nelson
Howard Nemerov
Arthur Nersesian
Kenn Nesbitt (born 1962)
F. A. Nettelbeck
Jill Neimark
Joel M. Nelson
Howard Nemerov (19201991)
Arthur Nersesian
Kenn Nesbitt

Martina Newberry
Celeste Newbrough
Aimee Nezhukumatathil (born 1974)
Lorine Niedecker (1903[?]1970)
Audrey Niffenegger
John Frederick Nims
Nina (poet)
Lucille Nixon
Eric "Big Daddy" Nord
Jessica Nordell
Shannon Norman (born 1981)
Charles North
Jessica Nelson North
Harry E. Northup (born 1940)
Jim Northrup (writer)
Alice Notley
Naomi Shihab Nye (born 1952)

[edit] O

Edward Joseph Harrington O'Brien

Geoffrey G. O'Brien
Ed Ochester
Blanche Oelrichs
Frank O'Hara (19261966)
Sharon Olds (born 1942)
Mary Oliver (born 1935)
Alix Olson
Charles Olson (19101970)
George Oppen (19081984)
Mary Oppen (19081990)
James Oppenheim
Joel Oppenheimer
Peter Oresick
Alicia Ostriker
Sophia Otap

[edit] P

Ron Padgett (born 1942)

Grace Paley
Cond Benoist Pallen
Michael Palmer (born 1943)
Jay Parini

Dorothy Parker (18931967)

Willadeene Parton
Lee Passarella
Linda Pastan (born 1932)
Kenneth Patchen (19111972)
Josephine Preston Peabody
Richard Peabody
Molly Peacock
Harry Thurston Peck
Bryan Penberthy
Rob Penny
James Gates Percival
Eleanor Percy Lee
William Alexander Percy
Sam Pereira (born 1949)
Bob Perelman
Emily Pestana
Robert Peters
Marge Piercy (1936)
Nick Piombino
Robert Pinsky (1940)
Carl Phillips
Wanda Phipps
Anthony Piccione
John Pierpont
Josephine Pinckney
Edward Coote Pinkney
o J. E. Pitts
Clarissa Pinkola Ests
Sylvia Plath (19321963)
Edgar Allan Poe (18091849)
Lanny Poffo
Robert Polito
Ralph Pomeroy (poet)
Paul Martinez Pompa
Marie Ponsot (born 1921)
Carol Potter
Charles Potts (1943)
Ezra Pound (18851972)
Kevin Powell
Julien de Lallande Poydras
Jack Prelutsky (1940)
Elizabeth Prentiss
Reynolds Price
Frederic Prokosch

Kevin Prufer

[edit] Q

George Quasha

[edit] R

Burton Raffel
Sam Ragan
Carl Rakosi (19032004)
Lee Ranaldo
Dudley Randall (19142000)
James Ryder Randall
Julia Randall
Claudia Rankine (born 1963)
Darren B. Rankins (born 1966)
John Crowe Ransom (18881974)
Sadi Ranson
Ron Rash
David Ray (born 1932)
Wayne Ray (Alabama b. 1950, now in Canada)
Thomas Buchanan Read
Spencer Reece
Henry Reed (19141986)
Ishmael Reed (born 1938)
Lizette Woodworth Reese
John Reinhard
Paul Reps
Carter Revard
Donald Revell (born 1954)

[[ JIMMY D ROBINSON 1964- songwriter, lyricist , poet

Eben E. Rexford
Kenneth Rexroth (19051982)
Charles Reznikoff (18941976)
Samuel F. Rhodes
William Henry Rhodes
Ren Ricard
Cale Young Rice
Stan Rice
Adrienne Rich (born 1929)
Beah Richards
Laura E. Richards
Monica Richards

Lola Ridge (18731941)

Laura Riding
Toms Riley
James Whitcomb Riley
Alberto Ros
Toms Rivera
Amlie Louise Rives
James J. Roberts (born 1947)
Howard W. Robertson
Edwin Arlington Robinson (18691935)
Edouard Roditi
Luis J. Rodriguez
Theodore Roethke (19081963)
Pattiann Rogers
Matthew Rohrer
Henry Rollins
Ronald Talney
Raymond Roseliep
Franklin Rosemont (born 1943)
J. Allyn Rosser
Terry Rossio
Jerome Rothenberg (born 1934)
Michael Rothenberg
Anne Rouse (born 1954)
Thomas Rowley (17211796)
Gibbons Ruark (born 1941)
Anne Rouse
Thomas Rowley (poet)
Gibbons Ruark
Mary Ruefle
Muriel Rukeyser
Nipsey Russell
Archibald Rutledge
Carl Hancock Rux
Abram Joseph Ryan
Kay Ryan
Michael Ryan (poet)

[edit] S

Michael Salinger
Mary Jo Salter (born 1954
Francis Saltus Saltus
Frank Samperi
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

Robert Charles Sands

Aram Saroyan
May Sarton
Minot Judson Savage
Jeannine Savard
John Godfrey Saxe
Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath
Ella H. Scharring-Hausen (1894-1985)
Robert Louis Scharring-Hausen (1894-1969)
Peter Schjeldahl
Michael Schmidt (poet)
Gjertrud Schnackenberg (born 1953 in poetry|1953)
Dan Schneider (writer)
Pat Schneider
Susan Polis Schutz
James Schuyler (1923-1991)
Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966)
Patricia Roth Schwartz
Armand Schwerner
JIMMY D ROBINSON lyricist ,poet [1964Alan Seeger
Calvin Seerveld
Frederick Seidel
Martha Serpas
Dr. Seuss
Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
Tom Sexton
Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)
Ntozake Shange
Ravi Shankar (poet)
David Shapiro (poet)
Karl Shapiro (1913-2000)
Eric Paul Shaffer
G.S. Sharat Chandra
Scott Shaw
Aaron Shurin
Eli Siegel
Lydia Sigourney
Richard Siken
Leslie Marmon Silko (born 1948)
Edward Rowland Sill
Ron Silliman
Murray Silverstein
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)
Ron Silliman (born 1946)

Charles Simic
Jim Simmerman
William Gilmore Simms
Marge Simon
Louis Simpson
John Sinclair (poet)
Hal Sirowitz (born 1949)
Judith Skillman
Myra Sklarew (born 1934)
Clark Ashton Smith
Edwin E. Smith
Elizabeth Oakes (Prince) Smith
Langdon Smith
Marc Smith
Margaret Smith (poet)
Patti Smith
R. T. Smith
Rod Smith
Rolland Smith
Tracy K. Smith (born 1972)
William Jay Smith
W. D. Snodgrass (born 1926)
Eliza Roxcy Snow
Craig Snyder
Laurel Snyder
Gary Snyder (born 1930)
Gustaf Sobin (1935-2005)
Roberto Solis
Gilbert Sorrentino
Juliana Spahr
Anne Spencer (1882-1975)
Jack Spicer
James Spix (born 1974)
Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford
Kim Stafford
William Stafford (1914-1993)
Frank Stanford (19481978)
Henry Throop Stanton
George Starbuck
William Force Stead
Edmund Clarence Stedman
Elizabeth Clementine Stedman
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Mattie Stepanek
George Sterling

Gerald Stern (born 1925)

C. J. Stevens
Wallace Stevens (1880-1955)
Allan Stevo (born 1979)
Anne Stevenson
Susan Stewart (born 1952)
Trumbull Stickney
John Stigall
James Still
Charles Warren Stoddard
Ruth Stone
William Wetmore Story
Mark Strand (born 1934)
Lucien Stryk
Jesse Stuart
A. M. Sullivan
Sekou Sundiata
Barton Sutter
Thomas Burnett Swann
John Swanwick
Robert Sward (born 1933))
May Swenson (19131989)

[edit] T

Eileen Tabios
John Taggart
Amber Tamblyn
Luci Tapahonso
Mark Tardi (born 1975)
Nathaniel Tarn (born 1928)
Allen Tate (18991979)
James Tate (born 1943)
Bayard Taylor
Edward Taylor (1645-1729)
Michelle Tea
Sara Teasdale
Michael Teig
Robbie Q. Telfer
Todd Temkin (born 1964)
Lucy Terry
Steve Tesich
Celia Thaxter
Ernest Thayer (18631940)
Scofield Thayer

William Roscoe Thayer

Edith Matilda Thomas
Lewis Thomas
Lorenzo Thomas (poet)
Dunstan Thompson
Lady Gwen Thompson
Maurice Thompson
William Irwin Thompson
Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
Tamara Thorne (born 1957)
Richard Tillinghast (born 1940)
Henry Timrod (18281867)
Melvin B. Tolson (18981966)
Ariel Tomioka
Lee Tonouchi
Nick Tosches
Tony Tost
William Tremblay
David Trinidad
Quincy Troupe
John Trumbull (poet)
Frederick Goddard Tuckerman
Lewis Turco (born 1934)
Brian Turner (American poet)
Genya Turovskaya
Chase Twichell
E. Donald Two-Rivers

[edit] U-V

David Unger
Louis Untermeyer
Charles Upton (born 1948)
Catherynne M. Valente
Jean Valentine
Max Wolf Valerio
Cor Van Den Heuvel
Mark Van Doren
Mona Van Duyn
Sheldon Vanauken
Janine Pommy Vega (born 1942)
Jones Very
George Sylvester Viereck
Peter Viereck
Nick Virgilio

Gerald Vizenor
Judith Vollmer
Frederick Von Guerin

[edit] W

Buddy Wakefield
Diane Wakoski (born 1937)
Diane Wald
Anne Waldman
Rosmarie Waldrop (born 1945)
Keith Waldrop
Alice Walker (born 1944)
Lonie Walker
Margaret Walker
Ryan Walsh
BJ Ward (poet)
Sean Ward (born 1966)
Catherine Anne Warfield
Robert Penn Warren (19051989)
William John Watkins
Barrett Watten (born 1948)
Arthur Weil (born 1925)
Hannah Weiner
James Welch (poet)
Lew Welch
Joe Wenderoth
Theodore Weiss (poet) (19162003)
Paul West (poet)
Philip Whalen
Mark Whalon
John Wheatcroft
Phillis Wheatley (17531784)
Beth Wheatley

John Hall Wheelock

John Brooks Wheelwright
Edward Lucas White
Gary J. Whitehead (born 1965)
Ruth Whitman
Walt Whitman (18191892)
Adeline Dutton Train Whitney
J.D. Whitney
Reed Whittemore
John Greenleaf Whittier (18071892)

Margaret Widdemer
John Wieners
Dara Wier Wilbur
Richard Wilbur (born 1921)
Carlos Wilcox
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Charlotte Wilder
Charles Willeford
C. K. Williams
Jonathan Williams (poet)
Oscar Williams (19001964)
Paul O. Williams
Randall Williams
Sarah Williams
William Carlos Williams (18831963)
Elizabeth Willis (born 1961)
Nathaniel Parker Willis
Edmund Wilson
Ian Randall Wilson
Anne Winters
Yvor Winters
Sam Witt
Larry Woiwode
John Barton Wolgamot
Nellie Wong
Merle Woo
George Edward Woodberry
Samuel Woodworth
Gamel Woolsey
Bryan Thao Worra
Patience Worth
C. D. Wright
Charles Wright (poet)
Franz Wright
Jameelah Causey Wright
James Wright (19271980)
Jay Wright (poet)
Kirby Wright
Richard Wright (author) (19081960)
Elinor Wylie

[edit] X-Z

Emanuel Xavier
Lois-Ann Yamanaka

Leo Yankevich
John Yau
Al Young (born 1939)
C. Dale Young (born 1969)
Dean Young (poet)
Kevin Young (poet)
Matthew Zapruder
Lisa Zaran
Marya Zaturenska
Louis Zukofsky (19041978)
Andrew C. Zinn

Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition, mostly borrowed from
the performance styles prevalent in Europe. Today, it is heavily interlaced with American
literature, film, television, and music, and it is not uncommon for a single story to appear
in all forms. Regions with significant music scenes often have strong theater and comedy
traditions as well. Musical theater may be the most popular form: it is certainly the most
colorful, and choreographed motions pioneered on stage have found their way onto
movie and television screens. Broadway in New York City is generally considered the
pinnacle of commercial U.S. theater, though this art form appears all across the country.
Another city of particular note is Chicago, which boasts the most diverse and dynamic
theater scene in the country. Regional or resident theatres in the United States are
professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons.
There is also community theatre and showcase theatre (performing arts group). Even tiny
rural communities sometimes awe audiences with extravagant productions.
Note: "theater" is the preferred spelling in the U.S., see spelling differences.


1 History
o 1.1 Early history
o 1.2 The 19th century
o 1.3 The 20th century
2 American theater today

3 External links

[edit] History

Edwin Forrest, a popular early American actor

[edit] Early history

The birth of professional theater in America is usually thought to have begun with the
Lewis Hallam troupe which arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1752. However it is
certain that theater existed in North America before that. A theater was built in
Williamsburg in 1715, and in January 1736, the original Dock Street Theatre was opened
in Charles Town, SC. Thomas Kean played the part of Richard III in New York City in
1750, and probably performed in Williamsburg shortly before the Hallams. (Amateur
theater is recorded to have existed as early as 1665, when performers of a play were
prosecuted in Accomack County, Virginia on charges of public wickedness.) In any case
The Hallams were the first to organize a complete company of actors in Europe (London
in this case) and bring them to the colonies. They brought a repertoire of the most popular
plays from London, including Hamlet, The Recruiting Officer, and Richard III. The
Merchant of Venice was their first performance, shown initially on September 15, 1752.
Encountering opposition from religious organisations, Hallam and his company left for
Jamaica in 1754 or 1755. Soon after, Lewis Hallam's son, Lewis Hallam, Jr., founded the
American Company which opened a theater in New York and presented the first
professionally-mounted American play, The Prince of Parthia by Thomas Godfrey, in
Throughout the 18th century there was widespread opposition to theatrical performances.
In the puritanical climate of the time, especially in the North, the theater was considered a
"highway to hell". Laws forbidding the performance of plays were passed in
Massachusetts in 1750, in Pennsylvania in 1759, and in Rhode Island in 1761, and it was
banned in most states during the American Revolutionary War at the urging of the
Continental Congress. In 1794 President Timothy Dwight IV of Yale College in his
"Essay on the Stage" declared that "to indulge a taste for playgoing means nothing more
or less than the loss of that most valuable treasure: the immortal soul.". However it is

likely that these ordinances were not strictly enforced, for we have records of
performances in many cities during this time.

[edit] The 19th century

In the early 19th century, theater became more common in the United States, and many
celebrity actors from Europe toured the United States. There were even a few famous
American actors, such as Edwin Forrest and Charlotte Cushman. Many theater owners,
such as William Dunlap and Thomas Abthorpe Cooper, similarly became well known
throughout the young nation.
The Walnut Street Theatre (or simply The Walnut) is the oldest continuously-operating
theater in America, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 825 Walnut Street. The
Walnut was built by The Circus of Pepin and Breschard, in 1809.
Most cities only had a single theater. Productions were much more rudimentary then, and
sometimes plays would be staged in barns or dining rooms when no theater was
available. Provincial theaters frequently lacked heat and even minimal props and scenery.
As the Westward Expansion of the country progressed, some entrepreneurs staged
floating theaters on boats which would travel from town to town. Eventually, towns grew
to the size that they could afford "long runs" of a production, and in 1841, a single play
was shown in New York City for an unprecedented three weeks.

John Drew, a famous American actor, playing the part of Petruchio from The Taming of
the Shrew.
Shakespeare was the most commonly performed playwright, along with other European
authors. American playwrights of the period existed, but are mostly forgotten now.
American plays of the period are mostly melodramas, often weaving in local themes or
characters such as the heroic but ill-fated Indian. The most enduring melodrama of this
period is Uncle Tom's Cabin, adapted by H. J. Conway from the novel by Harriet Beecher

A popular form of theater during this time was the minstrel show, arguably the first
uniquely American style of performance. These shows featured white actors dressed in
blackface and playing up racial stereotypes. These shows became the most watched
theatrical form of the era.
Throughout the 19th century, many preachers continued to warn against attending plays
as being sinful. Theater was associated with hedonism and even violence, and actors
especially female actors, were looked upon as little better than prostitutes. A serious
rivalry between William Charles Macready and Edwin Forrest mirrored the sports
rivalries of later years. The Astor Place Riot of 1849 in New York was sparked by this
rivalry, and brought about the deaths of 22 people. Then, at the end of the United States
Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theater while watching a play.
Burlesque became a popular form of entertainment in the middle of the 19th century.
Originally a form of farce in which females in male roles mocked the politics and culture
of the day, burlesque was condemned by opinion makers for its sexuality and
outspokenness. The form was hounded off the "legitimate stage" and found itself
relegated to saloons and barrooms. The female producers were replaced by their male
counterparts, who toned down the politics and played up the sexuality, until the shows
eventually became little more than pretty girls in skimpy clothing singing songs, while
male comedians told raunchy jokes.
The Civil War ended much of the prosperity of the South, and with it, its independent
theaters. Only New Orleans was able to recover its theatrical tradition in the 19th century,
if only partially. In the North, theater flourished as a post-war boom allowed longer and
more frequest productions. The advent of railroads allowed actors to travel much more
easily between towns, making theaters in small towns more feasible. By the late 19th
century, there were thousands of cities and towns with at least a rudimentary theater for
live productions. This trend also allowed larger and more elaborate sets to travel with
players from city to city. The advent of electric lighting led to changes in styles, as more
details could be seen by the audience.

Minstrel show performers Rollin Howard (in female costume) and George Griffin, c.

By the 1880s theaters on Broadway in New York City, and along 42nd Street, took on a
flavor of their own, giving rise to new stage forms such as the Broadway musical
(strongly influenced by the feelings of immigrants coming to New York with great hope
and ambition, many of whom went into the theater). New York became the organizing
center for theater throughout the U.S.
In 1896, Charles Frohman, Al Hayman, Abe Erlanger, Mark Klaw, Samuel F. Nixon, and
Fred Zimmerman formed the Theatrical Syndicate. Their organization established
systemized booking networks throughout the United States and created a monopoly that
controlled every aspect of contracts and bookings until the late 1910s when the Shubert
brothers broke their stranglehold on the industry.

[edit] The 20th century

Vaudeville was common in the late 19th and early 20th century, and is notable for heavily
influencing early film, radio, and television productions in the country. (This was born
from an earlier American practice of having singers and novelty acts perform between
acts in a standard play.) George Burns was a very long-lived American comedian who
started out in the vaudeville community, but went on to enjoy a career running until the
Some vaudeville theaters built between about 1900 and 1920 managed to survive as well,
though many went through periods of alternate use, most often as movie theaters until the
second half of the century saw many urban populations decline and multiplexes built in
the suburbs. Since that time, a number have been restored to original or nearly-original
condition and attract new audiences nearly one hundred years later.
By the beginning of the 20th century, legitimate (non-vaudville) theater had become
decidedly more sophisticated in the United States, as it had in Europe. The stars of this
era, such as Ethel Barrymore and John Drew, were often seen as even more important
than the show itself. The advance of motion pictures also led to many changes in theater.
The popularity of musicals may have been due in part to the fact the early films had no
sound, and could thus not compete. More complex and sophisticated dramas bloomed in
this time period, and acting styles became more subdued. Even by 1915, actors were
being lured away from theater and to the silver screen, and vaudeville was beginning to
face stiff competition.

Fiddler on the Roof, 1964.

While revues consisting of mostly unconnected songs, sketches, comedy routines, and
scantily-glad dancing girls dominated for the first 20 years of the 20th century, musical
theater would eventually develop beyond this. One of the first major steps was Show
Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. It featured songs and
non-musical scenes which were integrated to develop the show's plot. The next great step
forward was Oklahoma!, with lyrics by Hammerstein and music by Richard Rodgers. Its
"dream ballets" used dance to carry forward the plot and develop the characters.
Amateur performing groups have always had a place along side professional acting
companies. The Winneshiek Players, an amateur theater group in Freeport, IL, first
organized in 1916. After a few years of sporadic performances at various venues, the
group reorganized in 1926. The group has been in continuous operation since that time,
making them the oldest continuously operatinging theater group in the United States.
Detailed history of the Winneshiek Players can be found in the 1970 edition of History of
Stephenson County. Records of all productions are maintained in the archives of the
Winneshiek Players.
The massive social change that went on during the Great Depression also had an effect on
theater in the United States. Plays took on social roles, identifying with immigrants and
the unemployed. The Federal Theatre Project, a New Deal program set up by Franklin D.
Roosevelt, helped to promote theater and provide jobs for actors. The program staged
many elaborate and controversial plays such as It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
and The Cradle Will Rock by Marc Blitzstein.
After World War II, American theater came into its own. Several American playwrights,
such as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, became world-renowned. In the Sixties,
experimentation in the Arts spread into theater as well, with plays such as Hair including

nudity and drug culture references. Musicals remained popular as well, and musicals such
as West Side Story and A Chorus Line broke previous records.

[edit] American theater today

Earlier styles of theater such as minstrel shows and Vaudeville acts have disappeared
from the landscape, but theater remains a popular American art form. Broadway
productions still entertain millions of theatergoers as productions have become more
elaborate and expensive. Notable contemporary American playwrights include Edward
Albee, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, David Henry Hwang, and Wendy Wasserstein.
Smaller urban theaters have stayed a source of innovation, and regional theaters remain
an important part of theater life. Drama is also taught in high schools and colleges, which
was not done in previous eras, and many become interested in theater through this.