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Re-reading Poets

The Life of the Author

Paul Kameen

Publication Year: 2010

Paul Kameen offers a deep reflection on the importance of poets and poetry to the reader. Through his historical, philosophical, scholarly, and personal commentary on select poems, Kameen reveals how these works have helped him form a personal connection to each individual poet. He relates their profound impact not only on his own life spent reading, teaching, and writing poetry, but also their potential to influence the lives of readers at every level. In an examination of works by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walt Whitman, and others, Kameen seeks to sense each author’s way of seeing, so that author and reader may meet in a middle ground outside of their own entities where life and art merge in deeply intimate ways. Kameen counters ideologies such as New Criticism and poststructuralism that marginalize the author, and instead focuses on the author as a vital presence in the interpretive process. He analyzes how readers look to the past via “tradition,” conceptualizing history in ways that pre-process texts and make it difficult to connect directly to authors. In this vein, Kameen employs examples from T. S. Eliot, Martin Heidegger, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Kameen examines how people become poets and how that relates to the process of actually writing poems. He tells of his own evolution as a poet and argues for poetry as a means to an end beyond the poetic, rather than an end in itself. In Re-reading Poets, Kameen’s goal is not to create a new dictum for teaching poetry, but rather to extend poetry’s appeal to an audience far beyond academic walls.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Front Cover

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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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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


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pp. 171-176

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822977612
E-ISBN-10: 0822977613
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961079
Print-ISBN-10: 0822961075

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture
Series Editor Byline: David Bartholomae and Jean Ferguson Carr, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794700644
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Re-reading Poets

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English poetry -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Reader-response criticism.
  • Authors and readers.
  • Poetry -- Appreciation.
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