The Poetic Avant-Garde compares three avant-garde groups active in the era between the world wars: those surrounding Jorge Luis Borges, W.H. Auden, and Andre Breton. These groups were composed of poets and writers who made use of the avant-garde's characteristic modes of self-expression: the publication of small journals, unorthodox attention-getting tactics, and interaction with the mainstream press. However, their differing aesthetic, social, and political agendas illustrate the surprisingly broad range of avant-gardism in the interwar era.
Strong looks at the choices these three groups made when their radical goals collided with the forces of social and political change in the 1920s and 1930s, highlighting the disparity between their rhetoric and their actual achievements. The book focuses on the avant-garde's struggle to reconcile contradictory imperatives: a desire to be radically new while also finding an audience.