This chapter presents the critical context and overarching narrative of the text. Concrete poetry has not been subject to extensive literary-critical attention, particularly in a British context, partly because of the very diversity of thematic associations it is able to support, which makes it difficult to process conceptually in retrospect. To bring some clarity to current thinking around concrete poetry, and in response to some recent critical revaluations of the style, this text posits that the style represented an ongoing exploration of the legacy and relevance of early-twentieth-century vanguard activity during the 1950s-70s, especially the interplay between broadly constructivist and neo-dada tendencies in international literary and artistic culture during those decades. In England and Scotland, where the style emerged simultaneously during the early 1960s, the development of concrete poetry – and criticism around it – reflected these competing positions but also became bound up with questions of nationalism and national identity, particularly in Scotland. This chapter deals with those themes while also contextualising some gaps in the remit of the text, including the geographical restrictions placed around the subject-matter, and the relative absence of women poets from the scenes surveyed.
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