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What is American about the best American poets cannot be answered quickly. If it is answered quickly, it seems overly familiar; size, and emptiness of that size because America has been outsized to Europeans. Admirably or not. (For a hundred years the painters living near the vast forests and jungles in Brazil—did not paint them!) . . . to say the frontier life, the (for a long time) undomesticated or regularized places Americans lived in as they moved away from the East Coast, the magnitude that seeped into spirit and heart of the poets—even those who thought they were writing about something else have changed the world—in the same way that loneliness was different in America than in Europe, and made the Romanticism in America to be, at its best, written with a lower case 'r.' The loneliness and "American" Romaniticism has had more and deeper roots. It's because living in the magnitude of the American landscape and the "innocence" of people in it caused their hearts to be ambition before anyone was there to tell them better. Etcetera.
The wilderness went on in the best American poems until money came into it so overwhelmingly in the late Sixties.)
- Jack Gilbert