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American Poets on One of Their Own Poems
Robert Pack, ed.; Jay Parini, ed.

Middlebury College Press
1997 • 337 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Creative Writing / Poetry Criticism

Fifty-five essays by major American poets reflecting on their own work.

T. S. Eliot wrote that "the nearest we get to pure literary criticism is artists writing about their own art." This collection of essays by 55 of America's finest poets justifies that standard.

Asked to select and write about one of their own poems, these artists approach the task in delightfully varied ways. Some describe the circumstances that led to the poem: Rita Dove traces the creation of Parsley after offering the qualifier that "the task of describing how one such poem came to be snared on the page is a mission charged with equivocation and doomed to partial failure." Others offer a close reading of the work: Rosellen Brown provides a textual account of a section from Cora Fry's Pillow Book, a poem she dared "enjoy publicly" for a moment. Maxine Kumin also revisits a poem, in her case one written forty years before, and though she can see how differently she might write it today, she enjoys again the feelings from which it sprang and finds pleasure in its successful elements. The nature of the writing process itself is the topic for others such as Erica Jong who considers the conscious and unconscious sources of The Buddha in the Womb. Historical context and biographical detail form the focus of other essays: W. D. Snodgrass presents a poem, Lifelong, written for friends on the occasion of their wedding and he records the events leading to its composition.

Introspections demonstrates not just how much unique insight can obtained, but how much fun it can be to accompany poets on a trip through their private territory.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

ROBERT PACK's numerous books include Fathering the Map (1993) and The Long View (1991). JAY PARINI, Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College, is coeditor of Beyond The Godfather, editor of many books, including The Columbia History of American Poetry (1993), and author of numerous books of fiction, poetry, and biography.

Mon, 15 Aug 2011 14:34:01 -0500