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The Monkey and the Wrench

Essays into Contemporary Poetics

Mary Biddinger and John Gallaher, Editors

Publication Year: 2011

The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics takes a snapshot of a moving target: the ever-shifting conversation about today's poetry. The ten essays in this collection offer reflections and insights, practical advice for craft matters, and provocative points of departure for those who read and write poetry. This series seeks to further the discussion of poetics in America and beyond, and to showcase the ideas of writers and critics with varied sensibilities. The first volume in the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics, The Monkey & the Wrench, explores the debate over hybrid aesthetics, confronts the topic of contemporary rhyme, and ventures into the realm of persona and the mystical poem. This volume is ideal for both the classroom and the nightstand, for the poet's desk and the critic's bookshelf. Series editors Mary Biddinger and John Gallaher have assembled an eclectic collection that welcomes the reader into the conversation, while documenting the seismic activity of today's poetry world.

Published by: The University of Akron Press


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p. v

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Introduction: Of Monkeys and Wrenches

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pp. 1-4

Coming up with a title for this collection caused us great consternation. Monkey see, monkey do. Throw a monkey wrench in the works. Monkey mind. Don’t monkey with it. Hundredth monkey effect. Infinite monkey theorem. No more monkeys jumping on the bed. A barrel full of monkeys, etc. And then what happens? ...

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The Discursive Situation of Poetry

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pp. 5-26

Statistics confirm what many have long suspected: poetry is being read by an ever-smaller slice of the American reading public. Poets and critics who have intuited this have blamed many things, but for the most part they have blamed the rise of MFA programs in creative writing. While they have made various recommendations on how to remedy the situation, ...

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The Moves: Common Maneuvers in Contemporary Poetry

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pp. 27-42

Poetry is kind of like chess—there are an infinite number of possible games, but each game tends to be made up of certain recognizable moves. Experienced chess players know the classic openings and the classic defenses, along with their sexy names (the Catalan System, the Two Knights Defense, the Queen’s Gambit Declined). ...

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An Aesthetics of Accumulation: On the Contemporary Litany

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pp. 43-58

Each time I enter this poem, I am overcome with both a childlike fancy and the kind of mild rapture that I, despite a lack of religious conviction, can’t help but feel in the presence of stained glass, Baroque cupolas, and high church windows. Various religious traditions utilize the repetition of words or phrases to enact spiritual transformation, ...

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Cornucopia, or, Contemporary American Rhyme

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pp. 59-77

As a proportion of all published verse, fewer American poems use rhyme, and even fewer use forms that require end-rhymes, than was the case thirty—never mind, eighty—years ago. I want to show not exactly why that happened, but what that change means for how we hear rhyme and for how it gets used, in the United States, by the most interesting poets who use it now. ...

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I Am One of an Infinite Number of Monkeys Named Shakespeare, or; Why I Don’t Own this Language

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pp. 78-91

Have you ever heard a bad cover of one of your favorite songs? Did you declare—to yourself, to a friend, and perhaps a bit petulantly—that you prefer the original recording? Did you learn (later, on your own, if you were lucky; immediately, from that friend, if you were not) that the version you first came to love is actually the cover, ...

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Persona and the Mystical Poem

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pp. 92-103

In this essay, I will open a discussion on one of many possibilities for a contemporary poetry that embraces mysticism. By mysticism I mean an experience of presence or union that resists rational explanation; I do not find it necessary to make explicit a divinity or religious tradition or practice in this definition. ...

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A Wilderness of Monkeys

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pp. 104-116

The most beautiful sentence in the English language consists of the thirty-nine words that open "The Fall of the House of Usher": "During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country.” ...

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Hybrid Aesthetics and its Discontents

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pp. 117-147

In his introduction to his anthology American Poetry Since 1950, Eliot Weinberger states that “[f]or decades, American poetry has been divided into two camps” (qtd. in Swensen xvii). This division has been described in a variety of ways, many of which are touched upon in Cole Swensen’s introduction to American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry ...

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Response to Hybrid Aesthetics and its Discontents

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pp. 148-153

I would like to thank the editors of this volume for giving me the opportunity to add a few words here, for though, of course, many things are covered in these papers, the American Hybrid anthology is referred to sufficiently frequently and in the context of such crucial issues, that, as one of its editors, I value the chance to join the conversation, even after the fact. ...

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Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye: Notes on the Ends of Poems

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pp. 154-165

Our feel for endings comes from stories, movies, sports—all of our cultural underpinnings. "That's All Folks!" rang out every night, nudging us toward the dinner table. At the end of the fourth quarter the winning team rushes the goal posts. We usually don’t wonder whether to turn the last page when we read novels. ...


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pp. 166-168


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pp. 169-176

E-ISBN-13: 9781935603511
E-ISBN-10: 1935603515
Print-ISBN-13: 9781931968911
Print-ISBN-10: 1931968918

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 2 line drawings
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 708565045
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Monkey and the Wrench

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Subject Headings

  • Poetics -- History -- 21st century.
  • Poetics -- History -- 20th century.
  • American poetry -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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