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New Apocalypse

The New Apocalypse or New Apocalyptics grouping was a selection of poets from the United Kingdom during the 1940s.

The group’s work reacted against the political realism of poetry in the 1930s. They were influenced by surrealism and expressionism. There was a preoccupation in the 30s with politics and social issues that the New Apocalypse poets sought to dispel. The movement flourished for a brief period of time. 

New Apocalypse pronunciation: newh uh-paw-ca-lip-ss

New Apocalypse


Definition and Explanation of New Apocalypse 

The group’s name was derived from an anthology titled The New Apocalypse, published in 1939. It was followed by two other anthologies titled The White Horseman: Prose and Verse of the New Apocalypse and Crown and Sickle, in 1941 and 1944 respectively. The members of the movement described themselves as “anti-cerebral.”

The movement was founded by Henry Treece and J.F. Hendry who are also responsible for editing several of the volumes the New Apocalypse work appeared in. 


Examples of New Apocalypse Literature 

The Work of Henry Treece 

Henry Treece’s name is one of two most commonly associate with the New Apocalypse movement. His best collections of verse are The Black Seasons and The Exiles, Published in 1945 and 1952 but it is his fiction that is considered to be his greatest accomplishment. Specifically, The Bronze Sword. Take a look at these lines from ‘Deep in the Forest’ as an example of his work:

Deep in the forest 

In a sea-green light, 

Where the fern springs thickest 

In eternal night, 

The white moths weave their patterns

Above the blind mole’s mound […]

Here, readers can see a clear connection to the natural world that the poet is trying to emphasize. With the attention to nature, he’s also suggesting that there are important lessons to be learned there. He uses personification as the lines continue, depicting the individual, and individually important lives one can find in the woods. 


The Work of Nicholas Moore 

Along with Henry Treece, Nicholas more is one of the co-founders of the New Apocalypse movement. Most of his verse was published during the Second World War and included The Island and the Cattle and A Wish in Season, both published in 1941, The Cabaret, the Dancer, the Gentlemen, published in 1942, and The Glass Tower published two years later. A selection of his poetry titled Longings of the Acrobats was published after his death. Here are some lines from ‘Fire and Disease:’

The madmne too, they thought. When

Had madmen on the mind that year. They sighed,

Felt fond, felt silly. Madmen chimed

Like bells within the brain, like a disease


The Death of Kropotkin by Sir Herbert Read

Read, like Moore, was a pacifist who objected to the Second World War. He is one of the few poets categorized as part of the New Apocalypse movement today. In ‘The Death of Kropotkin,’ a wonderful poem and one for which he is best-known, the poet writes the following lines: 

Emma said there had been snow 

And a keen wind sighing in the withered branches 

and I imagined little details 

Sheepswool caught in the thorns

Red berries 

and a prophet’s dead face on the pillow. 

These lines demonstrate the type of writing that was common among those published in the New Apocalypse anthologies. He uses evocative and interesting images and is more interested in experience and emotion than he is in speaking about social or political issues. 


Related 20th Century Literary Movements 

In addition to the New Apocalypse group of writers, there are numerous other interesting movements that originated in the 20th century. With the advent of two world wars, the depression, civil rights movements, and more, the century produced some of the most important writing the English language has yet to see. Some of the movements one might be familiar with from the period include: 

  • Modernism: originated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It was mainly focused in Europe and North America. It included other movements like imagism, surrealism, and expressionism. The last two were influences on the New Apocalypse writers. 
  • Naturalism: a style of representation that was focused on accurate depictions and details accounts. Began in the late 19th century and lasted into the 20th. It rejected Romanticism, and embraced social commentary, unlike the work of the New Apocalypse writers. Writers who were part of the naturalist movement included Stephen Crane, Jack London, and Henry James. 
  • The Lost Generation: characterized by a loss of faith in society after World War I. An entirely American group, many of whom lived in Paris. These included Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. 
  • Harlem Renaissance: a revival of African American literature and the arts based in New York City. It lasted throughout the 1920s. It has been an important influence on all literature written after the period. Writers in this period included Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hurston. 
  • Beat Generation: a group of writers who were influenced by American culture and politics after the Second World War. They rejected standard narrative elements and were noted for their experimentation, in their personal lives, and in their writing. Writers included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. 
  • Postmodernism: developed in the mid-to-late 20th century in all the arts. Noted for its suspicion of reason, skepticism, and relativism. The literature of the period is characterized by changes such as metafiction and unreliable narration. Confessional poets like Anne Sexton belonged to this movement. 


Related Literary Terms 

  • Motif: an action, image, idea, or sensory perception that repeats in a work of literature.
  • Novel: a long, written, fictional narrative that includes some amount of realism.
  • Pastoral: a genre or mode of poetry that refers to works that idealize country life and the landscape they take place in.
  • Personification: a literary device that refers to the projection of human characteristics onto inanimate objects in order to create imagery.
  • Point of View: what the speaker, narrator, or character can see from their perspective.


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