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“A Window Fiery-Mild”: The Role of Venice in The Book of Ephraim

The Book of Ephraim is a very “literary” work and perhaps never more so than in its Venetian sections (V and W). It is my contention that Section V (the letter V, not the Roman numeral) constitutes not only a major turning-point in the work, but also a significant declaration of Merrill’s literary aims. As […]

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Satire & Dysfunction: James Merrill’s “Family Week at Oracle Ranch”

“Family week at Oracle Ranch” is a portrait of dysfunction. It’s a poem written later in Merrill’s life, appearing in his final book, A Scattering of Salts, published by Knopf in 1995, the same year that Merrill died (February 6, 1995). It originally appeared in The New Yorker, in the issue of February 22, 1993. […]

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James Merrill Special Issue: An Introduction

James Merrill is one of those poets whom everybody (well, everybody in the literary world) knows but whom few have read—or, at least, few have read at length or in depth. He shares his friend Elizabeth Bishop’s reputation as a “poet’s poet,” but in Bishop’s case the description is rather misleading; Bishop may appeal especially […]

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D. H. Tracy and the Role of the Poet-Critic

This is the 10th installment in the “Role of the Poet-Critic” series, which includes interviews with Dana Gioia, William Logan, Adam Kirsch, Stephen Burt, Christian Wiman, Timothy Steele, William Jay Smith, and Rachel Hadas. Interviewer’s Note: D. H. Tracy is the author of a book of poems, Janet’s Cottage (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012), which won […]

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Letters to CPR: Marcus Bales responds to Richard Blanco Ballyhoo

Editor’s Note: Marcus Bales responded to the CPR’s recent series of articles on Richard Blanco’s Inaugural reading with this poem.   Identity Poetical by Marcus Bales Identity Poet: I am the very model of identity poetical, My bio and my craftsmanship are blankly antithetical. The more that I’m selected for my principal ethnicity The easier […]

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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. 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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Dancing In Borrowed Time: Bill Coyle on Andrew Sofer

Reviewed: Wave by Andrew Sofer. Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2010. 63 pages, $14.00   The epigraph to Andrew Sofer’s debut collection of poetry comes from Yehuda Amachai—“And for the sake of remembering  / I wear my father’s face over mine”—and it could hardly be more apt. Among other things, the quotation prepares readers for […]

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