Archive | Essays

Praising Athenians in Athens: On the Failures of the American Ceremonial Poem

Perhaps the most surprising feature of Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” is that hardly anyone took notice. In the week after the inauguration, the blogosphere was eerily quiet in regard to the poem. The Washington Post failed to run the complete text until Saturday, and the few online weeklies that bothered to devote any […]

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The Richard Blanco Debate

Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, “One Today,” sucked. Take the first stanza, which manages to be at once portentous, vaguely imperialistic, and dull: One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth across the Great Plains, then charging across the […]

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No Justice Done To Poetry At The Inauguration: On Richard Blanco

John F. Kennedy’s request that Robert Frost read at his inauguration had no precedent in United States history, but, in retrospect, appears rather predictable. The 86-year-old writer was already “the embodiment of American poetry,” as Jay Parini puts it in his biography.  Parini recalls that Kennedy enjoyed Frost’s poetry, and – more importantly, no doubt […]

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Dennis O’Driscoll (1954-2012): An Appreciation

Until recently, Dennis O’Driscoll was among the few living poets I most wanted to meet. He was also the only such poet whose writings I barely knew. Yet shortly after his sudden death on December 24, 2012 (a week shy of his 59th birthday), I resolved to fill this gap in the coming year. I […]

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The Man Who Killed Poetry: Joseph Epstein And His Essays

It is nearly twenty-five years since Joseph Epstein published his now famous essay—or as Dana Gioia referred to it, his “mordant 1988 critique”—under the flashy title “Who Killed Poetry?” (Commentary, August 1988) “A brilliant polemicist,” Gioia wrote, “Epstein intended his essay to be incendiary, and it did ignite an explosion of criticism.” That came from […]

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“Is That Really the Best You Can Do?” Quincy Lehr on Poetry and Personal Style

When Solon declared that he learned something new every day (or was it Pericles?—some dead Greek guy, at any rate), he perhaps was not thinking of the utility of the Pratt-Shelby Knot when trying to keep a leather tie proportional enough that the thin end does not emerge at an inconvenient and insistent angle. However, […]

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Sources of Delight: What We Respond to When We Respond to Poetry by Jan Schreiber

When I was seventeen years old and barely aware of poetry, with no idea what good poetry might be, or even what if anything might please me, a friend, just back from his English class, rushed breathlessly into my room at boarding school, book in hand, and cried, “Listen to this!” I caught this morning […]

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The Lighter Side: Quincy Lehr on Selling Your Poetry Book

(Author’s note: No science was involved in the writing of this essay; nor was there any systematic process of interviews. No, this is based on firm anecdotal evidence, told to me by various poets in various stages of sobriety over the course of several years, as well as my own experiences since my first book […]

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Without a Net: Ernest Hilbert on Optic, Graphic, Acoustic, and Other Formations in Free Verse

The present survey is provisional and intended to serve as only the merest introduction to a vast and extraordinarily complex field, one that commands broad, ongoing attention. Useful examples and additions are welcome and may be entered in the comments section below the article.[1] An earlier version of this essay was given as a talk in […]

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The Craft of Poetry: A Bibliography of Resources in English

1. Precursors / chronological by country A) England Gascoigne, George.  “Certayne Notes of Instruction concerning the making of verse or ryme in English…” In The Posies of George Gascoigne. London: Richard Smith, 1575.[1] Puttenham, George.  The Art of English Poesy: A Critical Edition. 1589.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007. Lancelot, Claude. Quatre Traitez de […]

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