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Black Mountain Movement

Century: 20th

The Black Mountain poets (also known as the Projectivists) were a group of mid 20th century postmodern poets associated with Black Mountain College in the United States.


This group of poets led by Charles Olson at Black Mountain College in North Carolina propounded free-verse forms, what Olson called open or projective poetry. The poem, according to Olson, should be organized and live and breathe like a body. The poets that clustered around Olson and the college's journal, The Black Mountain Review— including Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn, Larry Eigner, and Paul Carroll—began to receive significant attention in the 1960s. Later poets associated with the Black Mountain canon include Ed Dorn, Joel Oppenheimer, John Wieners, and Jonathan Williams, all of whom studied under Olson.

Although they took their inspiration from Olson, members of the Black Mountain Poets often disagreed with one another. They represented not so much a united movement in the arts as a collective dedicated to exploring various new forms of contemporary poetry. The Black Mountain Poets extended the works of predecessors such as William Carlos Williams who helped to make American poetry more visual, informal, and reflective of everyday American speech. Black Mountain College was hospitable to the many critics and cultural commentators who visited the college in an attempt to discern how Olson and others were creating their art.

From: Encyclopedia of American Literature, vol. 4, Revised Edition.