Scripting the Nation is the first book to set the poets of Scottish King James IV’s court—William Dunbar, Walter Kennedy, and Gavin Douglas—in an extended dialogue with Latin and vernacular traditions of historiography. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Latin chroniclers such as John of Fordun and Walter Bower argued for their nation’s status, using genealogically based myths of origin that linked Scotland to ancient centers of power. As vernacular histories grew more Anglophobic and quarrels rooted in the past continued to influence Anglo-Scottish diplomacy, Dunbar, Kennedy, and Douglas took up a national discourse that responded to English myths and an English poetic tradition exemplified by Geoffrey Chaucer. Terrell’s elegant study examines how these Scottish writers marked out a distinct realm of Scottish cultural and poetic achievement, appropriating and subverting English literary models in ways that reveal the interplay between literary and historical authority in the scripting of nationhood.
A rich body of mythology and literature has grown around the Celtic ritual known as the Feis of Tara or “marriage of sovereignty”—ancient ceremonies in which the future king pledges to care for the land and serve the goddess of sovereignty. Seamus Heaney, whose writing has attracted the overwhelming share of critical attention directed toward contemporary Irish poetry, has engaged this symbolic tradition in some of his most significant—and controversial—work.
Seamus Heaney and the Emblems of Hope explores Heaney’s use of the family of sovereignty motifs and redresses the imbalance of criticism that has overemphasized the theme of sacrifice to the detriment of more optimistic symbols. Moreover, Moloney reviews the development of the marriage motif in Irish poetry from the ninth to the twenty-first centuries with a focus on Heaney’s adaptations from The Frenzy of Sweeney and The Midnight Court and on the work of such poets as Kinsella, Montague, Boland, and Ní Dhomhnaill. Karen Marguerite Moloney examines the central role that Heaney assigns the Feis of Tara in his response to the crisis of Ulster and to the general spiritual bankruptcy of our times, showing in his verse how the relationship of the male lover to the goddess—particularly in her more repugnant guises—serves as prototype for the humility and deference needed to repair the effects of English colonization of Ireland and, by extension, centuries of worldwide patriarchal abuse.
Through close, sustained readings of poems previously overlooked or misinterpreted, such as “Ocean’s Love to Ireland,” “Come to the Bower,” and “Bone Dreams”—poems that Irish feminist critics have deemed flawed and distressingly sexist—Moloney refutes views that have long stood unchallenged. She also considers the direction of Heaney’s more recent poems, which continue to resonate to the twin demands of conscience and artistic integrity.
An impeccably researched and immensely readable work, Seamus Heaney and the Emblems of Hope reveals that Heaney’s poetry offers a reverence for archetypal femininity and Dionysian energy that can counter the sterility and violence of postcolonial Irish life. Moloney shows us that, in the tradition of poets who preceded him, Heaney turns to the marriage of sovereignty to encode a message for our times—and to offer up emblems of hope on behalf of us all.
In an age of interpretation, style eludes criticism. Yet it does so much tacit work: telling time, telling us apart, telling us who we are. What does style have to do with form, history, meaning, our moment’s favored categories? What do we miss when we look right through it? Senses of Style essays an answer. An experiment in criticism, crossing four hundred years and composed of nearly four hundred brief, aphoristic remarks, it is a book of theory steeped in examples, drawn from the works and lives of two men: Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet and diplomat in the court of Henry VIII, and his admirer Frank O’Hara, the midcentury American poet, curator, and boulevardier. Starting with puzzle of why Wyatt’s work spoke so powerfully to O’Hara across the centuries, Jeff Dolven ultimately explains what we talk about when we talk about style, whether in the sixteenth century, the twentieth, or the twenty-first.
In a work of surprising range and authority, Deborah Forbes refocuses critical discussion of both Romantic and modern poetry. Sincerity's Shadow is a versatile conceptual toolkit for reading poetry.
Ever since Wordsworth redefined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," poets in English have sought to represent a "sincere" self-consciousness through their work. Forbes's generative insight is that this project can only succeed by staging its own failures. Self-representation never achieves final sincerity, but rather produces an array of "sincerity effects" that give form to poetry's exploration of self. In essays comparing poets as seemingly different in context and temperament as Wordsworth and Adrienne Rich, Lord Byron and Anne Sexton, John Keats and Elizabeth Bishop, Forbes reveals unexpected convergences of poetic strategy. A lively and convincing dialectic is sustained through detailed readings of individual poems. By preserving the possible claims of sincerity longer than postmodern criticism has tended to, while understanding sincerity in the strictest sense possible, Forbes establishes a new vantage on the purposes of poetry.
Table of Contents:
1. The Personal Universal Sincerity as Integrity in the Poetry of Wordsworth and Rich 2. Before and After Sincerity as Form in the Poetry of Wordsworth, Lowell, Rich, and Plath 3. Sincerity and the Staged Confession The Monologues of Browning, Eliot, Berryman, and Plath 4. The Drama of Breakdown and the Breakdown of Drama The Charismatic Poetry of Byron and Sexton 5. Agnostic Sincerity The Poet as Observer in the Work of Keats, Bishop, and Merrill
Conclusion Notes Index
From the Conclusion
"In spite of modern experiments in communal authorship, writing poetry remains one of the most individual of acts, and yet, because it provides the ground upon which the paradoxes of self-consciousness can move most freely, one of the acts most skeptical about the authority of any individual claim to self-understanding. . . . In undertaking its experiments, poetry may separate itself from certain contexts (economic, political, historical), but is itself as local and concrete as these contexts, an experience as well as a meditation on our experiences. In its particularity, its flexibility, its sensual and sonic complexity, its consideration of the extra-rational experiences of pleasure and desire, and above all in the ways in which it speaks with both more and less authority, more and less presence than an actual human voice, poetry offers us the experience of the unknown at the core of proposed self-knowledge. This is lyric poetry's enduring -- though not sole -- claim on us."
Singing the Chaos: Madness and Wisdom in Modern Poetry combines both a historical and a critical approach toward the works of major British, American, French, German, and Russian poets. Comprehensive in scope and arranged chronologically to survey a century of high poetic achievement, the study is unified by Pratt's overriding argument that "modern poets have endowed a disintegrating civilization with humane wisdom by 'singing the chaos' that surrounds them, making ours a great age in spite of itself."
In developing this central theme, Pratt brings alive the energy, the freshness, and the originality of technique that made Baudelaire, Pound, Yeats, Rilke, Eliot, and others the initiators of the revolution in poetry. He brings a more complete, clearer perspective to other major themes: modernism as an age of irony; poets as both madmen and geniuses; the modern poet as tragic hero; the dominance of religious or visionary truths over social or political issues; and the combination of radical experiments in poetic form with an apocalyptic view of Western civilization. His detailed treatment of the Fugitive poets and his recognition of their prominent role in twentieth-century literature constitute an important historical revision.
Brilliantly informed, insightful, and, above all, accurately sympathetic to the points of view of the poets Pratt presents, Singing the Chaos is that rare book that belongs on all shelves devoted to modernist poetry.
The classic tale of adventure, romance, and chivalry--now a major motion picture starring Dev Patel!
The adventures and challenges of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew and a knight at the Round Table, including his duel with the mysterious Green Knight, are among the oldest and best known of Arthurian stories. Here the distinguished author and poet John Gardner has captured the humor, elegance, and richness of the original Middle English in flowing modern verse translations of this literary masterpiece. Besides the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this edition includes two allegorical poems, “Purity” and “Patience”; the beautiful dream allegory “Pearl”; and the miracle story “Saint Erkenwald,” all attributed to the same anonymous poet, a contemporary of Chaucer and an artist of the first rank.
“Mr. Gardner has translated into modern English and edited a text of these five poems that could hardly be improved. . . . The entire work is preceded by a very fine and complete general introduction and a critical commentary on each poem.”—Library Journal
Skeptical Music collects the essays on poetry that have made David Bromwich one of the most widely admired critics now writing. Both readers familiar with modern poetry and newcomers to poets like Marianne Moore and Hart Crane will relish this collection for its elegance and power of discernment. Each essay stakes a definitive claim for the modernist style and its intent to capture an audience beyond the present moment.
The two general essays that frame Skeptical Music make Bromwich's aesthetic commitments clear. In "An Art without Importance," published here for the first time, Bromwich underscores the trust between author and reader that gives language its subtlety and depth, and makes the written word adequate to the reality that poetry captures. For Bromwich, understanding the work of a poet is like getting to know a person; it is a kind of reading that involves a mutual attraction of temperaments. The controversial final essay, "How Moral Is Taste?," explores the points at which aesthetic and moral considerations uneasily converge. In this timely essay, Bromwich argues that the wish for excitement that poetry draws upon is at once primitive and irreducible.
Skeptical Music most notably offers incomparable readings of individual poets. An essay on the complex relationship between Hart Crane and T. S. Eliot shows how the delicate shifts of tone and shading in their work register both affinity and resistance. A revealing look at W. H. Auden traces the process by which the voice of a generation changed from prophet to domestic ironist. Whether discussing heroism in the poetry of Wallace Stevens, considering self-reflection in the poems of Elizabeth Bishop, or exploring the battle between the self and its images in the work of John Ashbery, Skeptical Music will make readers think again about what poetry is, and even more important, why it still matters.
This collection gathers new essays by critics and scholars who are currently reshaping our sense of the function and nature of seventeenth-century poetry. Contributors return to the New Critical canon of Renaissance poetry with fresh perspectives that emphasize considerations of gender, ideology, power, and language.
In the first group of essays, David Norbrook, Annabel Patterson, John Guillory, Rosemary Kegl, and Stephen Orgel explore the various ways in which a text can be "political." Next, Arthur Marotti, Jane Tylus, and Jonathan Goldberg consider the circumstances of textual production and reception in the seventeenth century. Finally, Stanley Fish, Gordon Braden, Michael C. Schoenfeldt, and Maureen Quilligan discuss the particular forms of anxiety that result when seventeenth-century poets modify the traditional rhetoric of sexual desire to serve what seem to be erotic or religious purposes.
These essays, accompanied by an extensive editors' introduction, intersect less in their shared enthusiasm for particular authors or interpretative methods than in a common interest in particular critical issues. They present the most exciting work by critics redefining Renaissance studies.
There is some connexion
(I like the way the English spell it
They’re so clever about some things
Probably smarter generally than we are
Although there is supposed to be something
We have that they don’'t—'don’t ask me
What it is. . . .)
—John Ashbery, “Tenth Symphony”
Something We Have That They Don’t presents a variety of essays on the relationship between British and American poetry since 1925. The essays collected here all explore some aspect of the rich and complex history of Anglo-American poetic relations of the last seventy years. Since the dawn of Modernism poets either side of the Atlantic have frequently inspired each other’s developments, from Frost’s galvanizing advice to Edward Thomas to rearrange his prose as verse, to Eliot’s and Auden’s enormous influence on the poetry of their adopted nations (“whichever Auden is,” Eliot once replied when asked if he were a British or an American poet, “I suppose, I must be the other”); from the impact of Charles Olson and other Black Mountain poets on J. H. Prynne and the Cambridge School, to the widespread influence of Frank O'Hara and Robert Lowell on a diverse range of contemporary British poets. Clark and Ford’s study aims to chart some of the currents of these ever-shifting relations. Poets discussed in these essays include John Ashbery, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, T. S. Eliot, Mark Ford, Robert Graves, Thom Gunn, Lee Harwood, Geoffrey Hill, Michael Hofmann, Susan Howe, Robert Lowell, and W. B. Yeats.
“Poetry and sovereignty,” Philip Larkin remarked in an interview of 1982, “are very primitive things”: these essays consider the ways in which even seemingly very “unprimitive” poetries can be seen as reflecting and engaging with issues of national sovereignty and self-interest, and in the process they pose a series of fascinating questions about the national narratives that currently dominate definitions of the British and American poetic traditions.
This innovative and exciting new collection will be of great interest to students and scholars of British and American poetry and comparative literature.
Like the pilot in W. B. Yeats's “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” each of us is challenged to “balance with this life, this death.” As we share a common fate, we also share loss and sorrow. At their most mournful, with praise and love and raw emotion, poets throughout time have put their grief to paper. The elegy and its inherent drama---the inevitable struggle between love and death---are showcased in The Sorrow Psalms, a collection of twentieth-century elegies edited by poet Lynn Strongin. Divided into five thematic sections, the elegies convey the impact of death and its aftermath; focus on the loss of family, lovers, and dear friends; contend with the loss of a child; deal with violent death; and seek to look beyond death to find some kind of resolution. The traditional stages of grieving---denial, anger, depression, and acceptance---are evident, either singly in the expression of one profound emotion or all at once, in these elegies. Strongin's introduction on the origins of the elegy and its evolution through the twentieth century explains what elegy has been and what it can be. “There is a river of sorrows that flows, which our creative spirits have mapped,” she writes. As they evoke and exalt the dead and give expression to the deepest emotions, the resonant elegies collected here offer comfort to those who personally or collectively grieve the passing of loved ones. Contributors includeJohn Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, e. e. cummings, James Dickey, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Denise Levertov, Sandra McPherson, Joyce Peseroff, Robert Peters, Stan Rice, Adrienne Rich, Carl Sandburg, Anne Sexton, Ruth Stone, Mark Strand, Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, C. D. Wright
Why are poems important? What do people mean when they use the word prosody? How does a poem read and sound? How does a poem's shape--its form--help to create its meaning? Sound and Form in Modern Poetry provides useful answers to these questions for readers of poetry. Through careful attention to the poems of modern masters, the book offers an accessible guide to the way today's poems really work, and to the way they are linked in style to poems of earlier times.
Poet, critic, and editor Robert McDowell has updated this classic text in the light of the poetic and critical developments of the last three decades. Segments on Dickinson, Robinson, Frost, Jeffers, and Lowell, among other poets, have been greatly expanded, and Ashbery, Creeley, Ginsberg, Hall, Kees, Kumin, Levertov, Levine, O'Hara, Plath, Rich, Simpson, and Wilbur added, among others. The epilogue discusses a new generation of poets whose works will likely be read well into the next century-- among others, Thomas M. Disch, Rita Dove, Dana Gioia, Emily Grosholz, Mark Jarman, Molly Peacock, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Timothy Steele, Mary Swander, and Marilyn Nelson Waniek.
Over the last ten years, the most inspiring topic of conversation and argument among poets and their readers has been the resurgence of narrative and traditional forms. The new Sound and Form in Modern Poetry is a seminal text in this discussion, examining not only this movement but all of the important developments (Dadaism, Surrealism, Imagism, Language Poetry, and the Confessional School) that have defined our poetry in the twentieth century and have set the stage for poetry's continued life in the twenty-first. The original Sound and Form in Modern Poetry enjoyed extensive classroom use as a text; the revised version promises to be even more accessible, and more essential, for years to come.
The late Harvey Gross was Professor of Comparative Literature, State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Robert McDowell is publisher and editor of Story Line Press, and is also poet, critic, translator, fiction writer, and essayist.
Once feared by Queen Elizabeth I and admired by William Shakespeare, Robert Southwell, s.j. (1561–1595), clings today to a thinning canonical presence in English literature among a sphere of other writers incongruously called the metaphysical poets. Southwell’s Sphere lifts this sixteenth century Jesuit priest and prolific writer from the obscurity in which he too often resides and places him instead at the center of a sphere of English poets upon whom his life and works exerted an observable influence. As he weaved his religious content into the familiar loom of Elizabethan form and style, this young missionary priest was seeking not just to catechize those whom he regarded as the faithful and the fallen, but to intentionally reform the verse of his native England. Remarkably, during his brief six-year mission, he actually managed in many respects to do so. Surviving for six years by successfully navigating and fostering a complicated underground Catholic network in and around London before being captured, tortured and imprisoned, Southwell was brought to trial and executed at Tyburn at age 33. He therefore never knew most of the “skillfuller wits” that he called upon to direct their poetic skills to the service of God. And like the marks upon his tortured body, the poetic marks of influence that his work left upon individual writers of this era were in many cases deliberately concealed. Southwell’s Sphere seeks to rediscover those marks and offer the reader a renewed appreciation for this subverted and subverting literary force in Early Modern England. In individual explicative chapters this book examines works by six poets whose verse may be appreciated differently in light of Robert Southwell’s life and work. The author makes the case that Southwell’s works, posthumously and prolifically published, instructed William Alabaster, provoked Edmund Spenser, prompted George Herbert, haunted John Donne, inspired Richard Crashaw and — two and a half centuries later — consoled Gerard Manley Hopkins, s.j. With the exception of Spenser, all of these poets were, like Southwell, ordained ministers. The particular personal, political and religious complexities of each of their lives notwithstanding, what they most shared in common with Southwell was their priestly vocation, their talent as English poets and the inevitable and inextricable joining of these two activities in their lives. While it would have made little sense for any of these poets to acknowledge Southwell as a poetic peer, each of them authored important verse that can best be appreciated within the sphere of this improbably successful and influential English poet.
In The Story of All Things Marshall Grossman analyzes the influence of major cultural developments, as well as significant events in the lives of Renaissance poets, to show how specific narratives characterize distinctive conceptions of the self in relation to historical action. To explore these conceptions of the self, Grossman focuses on the narrative poetry in the English Renaissance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Relating subjectivity to the nature of language, Grossman uses the theories of Lacan to analyze the concept of the self as it encounters a transforming environment. He shows how ideological tensions arose from the reorganization and "modernization" of social life in revolutionary England and how the major poets of the time represented the division of the self in writings that are suspended between lyric and narrative genres. Beginning with the portrayals of the self inherited from Augustine, Dante, and Petrarch, he describes the influence of historic developments such as innovations in agricultural technology, civil war and regicide, and the emergence of republican state institutions on the changing representation of characters in the works of Spenser, Donne, Marvell, and Milton. Furthering this psychoanalytic critique of literary history, Grossman probes the linguistic effects of social and personal factors such as Augustine’s strained relationship with his mother and the marital disharmony of Milton and Mary Powell. With its focus on these and other "literary historical events," The Story of All Things not only proposes a new structural theory of narrative but constitutes a significant challenge to New Historicist conceptions of the self.
John Hollander, poet and scholar, was a master whose work joined luminous learning and imaginative risk. This book, based on the unpublished Clark Lectures Hollander delivered in 1999 at Cambridge University, witnesses his power to shift the horizons of our thinking, as he traces the history of shadow in British and American poetry from the Renaissance to the end of the twentieth century.
Shadow shows itself here in myriad literary identities, revealing its force as a way of seeing and a form of knowing, as material for fable and parable. Taking up a vast range of texts—from the Bible, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton to Poe, Dickinson, Eliot, and Stevens—Hollander describes how metaphors of shadow influence our ideas of dreaming, desire, doubt, and death. These shadows of poetry and prose fiction point to unknown, often fearful domains of human experience, showing us concealed shapes of truth and possibility. Crucially, Hollander explores how shadows in poetic history become things with a strange substance and life of their own: they acquire the power to console, haunt, stalk, wander, threaten, command, and destroy. Shadow speaks, even sings, revealing to us the lost as much as the hidden self.
An extraordinary blend of literary analysis and speculative thought, Hollander’s account of the substance of shadow lays bare the substance of poetry itself.