Front Cover

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Copyright

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Contents

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Preface

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pp. vii-xiv

In the broadest sense, this book is a celebration of the value of poetry and a defense of poetry for our time. Such a defense is not easy to provide in a cultural moment that tends, simultaneously, to think both too much and (as an inevitable consequence of that) too little of poetry: too much, in that its practice and appreciation have been turned over to the experts, the profes- ...

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Chapter 1. The Life of the Author

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pp. 1-43

I read the poets that concern me most in this book both before and while I became a practicing professional myself, over a long period of time. The advantage of this is that I have come to understand in a direct way the ultimately casual and temporary nature of the critical preferences ...

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Chapter 2. The Other Side of Thirty

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pp. 44-78

In 1971, my first year out of college, I was trying with little success to find some sort of job I might actually be suited for. Generally discouraged, I suppose, about my overall prospects, I took a couple of graduate classes as a part-time student, hoping they might help me figure out a way to bring my interest in poetry into some consonance with my ...

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Chapter 3. World Enough, and Time

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pp. 79-113

For about five or six years, I’ve been using the same format in my course description for freshman writing, with pretty good success. As I explain to the students, my ambition in the course is to introduce them to university-level intellectual work; to me, the two most important ...

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Chapter 4. Preaching to the Birds

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pp. 114-152

I did not expect to turn to John Stuart Mill, of all people, as a helpmate in concluding my thinking about the value of poetry. I first encountered his work in the college English class I wrote about earlier: Both Mill’s “Autobiography” (a short excerpt) and “What Is Poetry?” (the first half of his “Thoughts on Poetry and its Varieties”) were included in ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 153-166

I realized while I was writing the final chapter—as my own “life of the author” began to emerge through my poems as a subject for inquiry in much the same way as the other poets I am talking about—that my “defense of poetry” is not complete without some sampling of my creative work. The main difficulty is how to do it. I have written poems on and off for forty ...

Works Cited

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pp. 167-170

Index

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pp. 171-176

Back Cover

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