About Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert edited the Contemporary Poetry Review from 2005 until 2010. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Boston Review, Verse, New Criterion, American Scholar, and the London Review. His debut collection is Sixty Sonnets (2009). He graduated from Oxford University, where he edited the Oxford Quarterly. He hosts the popular blog and video show www.everseradio.com and is an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, an archaeologist.


Ernest Hilbert Has written the following articles:


The Voice of the Poet

Thoughtful readers of poetry are attuned to the musical subtleties of the human voice. These qualities shape the poetry, and most poetry-purely optical or purposely discordant linguistic experiments notwithstanding-should be heard, either as an acoustic mental image, when read silently, or spoken aloud. It cannot be adequately appreciated otherwise. Owing in part to new technology and a renaissance in available arts venues around the United States, the performance of poetry has grown to be a greater concern than it has been for hundreds of years, perhaps since the earliest bards strummed simple instruments and sang versified histories. Poets today have more tools at their disposal than ever before, from the microphone to CDs and digital audio downloads. After America embraced Dylan Thomas’s fiery recitations, which gained legendary status from John Malcolm Brinnin’s equally legendary accounts in Dylan Thomas in America, the notion of the poet as solo performer began to gain greater recognition. Poets in America came to resemble pocket-sized rock stars for a time in the 1960s, shaggy and romantic, visionary, shamanistic, observed as dangerous, even self-destructive-as self-involved and primeval as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison on their swirling psychedelic proscenia.

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From the Vault: The Secret Glory, Ernest Hilbert Interviews Franz Wright

EH: If someone were blindfolded and reached out at random on your bookshelves, what might he come away with?

FW: The New Testament, Neue Gedichte, and the pornographic stories of Apollinaire.

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In Memoriam: Thom Gunn

The Anglo-Californian Thom Gunn, who died this year at the age of 74, has been everywhere memorialized and for an expectedly diverse assortment of reasons, or causes, as they may be. In native quarters, he was beloved of his generation of English poets, an heir of Auden, a dashing young man who composed elegant poems about motorcycle gangs and smoky rooms in books like Fighting Terms and The Sense of Movement. However, the height of his popularity in the United States came later, with his enormously popular book of elegies on the first major ravages of the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s, Man With the Night Sweats. What appeals to these two transatlantic groups of readers might be quite distant when seriously considered, but the quality in Gunn’s poetry that magnetized them both is an exquisite combination: English grace and American coarseness (for lack of finer terms in both cases). He set more poems in rough bars than probably any poet aside from Charles Bukowski, who specialized in tales from that boozy milieu.

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The Pages of the Future

Let me begin by saying that I am not a great advocate of all Internet uses of poetry. Books tend to work just fine, most of the time, and I continue to enjoy the look and feel of literary magazines of all sorts. However, even modest developments in technology have engendered incredible advantages for poets, editors, and readers, primarily as a means of rapid and affordable distribution.

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Geoffrey Hill: The Corpus of Absolution

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert Orchards of Syon by Geoffrey Hill. Counterpoint Press, 2002. Geoffrey Hill is so categorically admired by those who read him regularly (and they do not comprise a great horde) that it seems simply a matter of time before one will begin to hear of a “Hillian corpus” as one sometimes […]

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The Sound of the Future

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert An Introduction to the Uses of Voice Recording in New Electronic Formats The musical qualities of the spoken voice are thought by many to be the essence of poetry, and it remains true that most poetry is intended to be heard, either as an acoustic mental image or when spoken […]

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Oedipus Redivivus

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert The Throne of Labdacus by Gjertrud Schnackenberg. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001 I. At the height of its rather muted publicity, the new formalism movement-proclaimed by Dana Gioia in the 1980s, and laid out in Linnaean proportions by Mark Jarman and David Mason in Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New […]

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Mother’s Milk: Ernest Hilbert Reviews Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

Today, editors at large houses will sometimes take on books of poetry as auxiliary or personal projects. Some, like Adrienne Rich, with W.W. Norton, produce a regular profit. Usually, however, it is the case that poetry lists are show horses. One would never yoke them to draw plow through field. In other words, they are kept. They must be subsidized. If not, publishers look immediately to them when mulling over poor annual returns. A recent example is Oxford University Press, which made the controversial decision to unload its poetry list for financial reasons. Not only did the list fail to make a profit, it was a white elephant. The ensuing clamor produced certain facts both instructional and a little obscene to the public. Jon Stallworthy, the very image of a literary gentleman, pointed out during the fray that such poets as Gerard Manley Hopkins failed to sire a great deal of profit for many years but are now canonical (thus very profitable to the farsighted editor). On the other hand, it became public knowledge that some of the poets on the Oxford Poets series had sold fewer than ten copies of their books. This was embarrassing for all involved.

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From the Vault: Ernest Hilbert Visits Spender’s World

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert   World Within World by Stephen Spender. Modern Library, 398 pages. $23.95. Stephen Spender’s World Within World is as much a reconsideration, a critique, of the art of autobiography as it is an autobiography. Just as Ford Madox Ford’s novel The Good Soldieris today read as an Ars Prosa, World Within World petitions its […]

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Beatnik Bohemia

As Reviewed By: Ernest Hilbert The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles. Grove Press. 294 pages. $24.95. The byronic images and locales of La Boheme, Giacomo Puccini’s nineteenth-century depiction of classically starving artists in Paris’s Latin Quarter, have come to dominate, rather predictably, portrayals of young artists, writers, and singers: whiskered rogues in whose unwashed ears the […]

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