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Stalking the Typical Poem

When I tell people I teach and – God help me – even write poetry, they often say, “I wish you could explain modern poetry to me.… continue reading...

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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.… continue reading...

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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 Rockies.

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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. … continue reading...

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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.… continue reading...

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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 a similar-themed essay written by Gioia less than three years later (also with an interrogatory title), which went on to report: “No recent essay on American poetry has generated so much violently negative criticism from poets themselves [including “an extravagantly acrimonious symposium in the AWP Chronicle (the journal of the Associated Writing Programs)” when it was reprinted].… continue reading...

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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.… continue reading...

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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 morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level | underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing .

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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 appeared in 2008.continue reading...

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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.continue reading...

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