An Autodidact’s Request

Dear poets, a favor: I’ve had this sudden realization that my education in, and familiarity with, twentieth-century poetry comes to an abrupt halt somewhere around Eliot and Stein, leapfrogs over World War II (using some kind of Modern-Postmodern, Joyce-Beckett sinew), and picks up again somewhere around the Beats and the New York School, with writers in rebellion against form, tradition, the establishment, a repressively conservative social and political climate, etc. (bless their avant-garde, antinomian hearts!). But somewhere in there is an entire sprawling mid-century world that I missed out on—Bishop, Moore, Lowell, Millay, Jarrell, Berryman, Schwartz, Auden, Rukeyser, Roethke, Plath, Sexton, Stevens, Levertov, Kunitz, etc. (A list that admittedly might not make a lick of sense, since I know little—but I guess at least I know that I know little, which is worth something—see this post.)

How do these poets mean? And how should an autodidact begin? Directions to individual poems, collections, anthologies, histories, biographies, criticism, and/or essay collections, most appreciated.

Addendum: the autodidact’s reading list: Dana Gioia, Can Poetry Matter?; Randall Jarrell, No Other Book; Donald Hall, ed., Claims for Poetry; J.D. McClatchy, ed., The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry; David Lehman, The Last Avant-Garde; Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, eds., The Making of a Poem; Daniel Kane, All Poets Welcome; Elizabeth Bishop, Collected Prose; Nancy Mitford, Savage Beauty; Melissa Kwasny, ed., Toward the Open Field; Stephen Burt, Randall Jarrell and His Age. (For starters!)