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Uncertainty and Plenitude

Five Contemporary Poets

Peter Stitt

Publication Year: 1997

From the extraordinary diversity of contemporary poetry, Peter Stitt, the distinguished critic and editor of the Gettysburg Review, has chosen in this book to write about five poets only, all premier practitioners—John Ashbery, Stephen Dobyns, Charles Simic, Gerald Stern, and Charles Wright, with a special look at Stanley Kunitz in relation to Wright. Stitt's confident and inventive assessments of these fine poets' work help us gain some focus on the “uncertainty and plenitude” of the current poetry scene, demonstrating that concentrated and knowledgeable criticism can show us ways to begin measuring the accomplishments of our poetic age.

Stitt's interest in these five poets is intellectual and aesthetic. As he states, “I chose these particular writers because their work continues to interest me deeply, both intellectually and formally, even after years of familiarity.” He uses his understanding of the philosophical implications inherent in modern physics, as they apply to both content and form, as the basis for his close analysis.

Stitt attends to the poets' writerly strategies so that we may discover in their poetry where “surface form” intersects and complements meaning and thus becomes, in John Berryman's terms, “deep form.” He explains what these poets say and how they say it and what relationships lie between. He also shows how humor plays a part in some of their work.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Introduction: Poetry in a Time of Uncertainty and Plenitude

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pp. 9-18

We live in an age of plenitude, an age of muchness, the muchness age, and that means poetry, too. But some people who love poetry love also to bewail its tiny status, its lack of money and fame, its permanent position in America's backseat, rumble seat, potty chair; poetry seems all but obliterated in our culture, seems mummified and...

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John Ashbery: The Poetics of Uncertainty

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pp. 19-49

John Ashbery brings out the best and the worst in people who care about contemporary American poetry. The best is exemplified by the reception he has gotten throughout the years from the officialdom of poetry: so many awards, so much honor, such a...

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Stephen Dobyns: The Uncertainties of Narrative

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pp. 50-85

When he decided sometime before 1982 to write a series of poems based on the enigmatic paintings of the twentieth-century French artist Balthus Stephen Dobyns began a fertile investigation into the nature of poetry as an art form...

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Charles Simic: Poetry in a Time of Madness

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pp. 86-118

Charles Simic's Selected Poems, 1963-1983, first published in 1985 and then again in 1990 in a "Revised and Expanded" form, is unusual, not just because of this publishing history, and not just because it did not win a Pulitzer Prize..

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Gerald Stern: Weeping and Wailing and Singing for Joy

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pp. 119-144

Though born in 1925, Gerald Stern did not publish his first book until the age of forty-six, in 1971. Not many readers noticed either that volume,Pineys, or Rejoicing: Poems, 1966-1972 (1973), and probably for an excellent reason:..

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Charles Wright: Resurrecting the Baroque

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pp. 145-182

Loosely speaking, the baroque impulse in contemporary American poetry is recognizable for the same reason the baroque has always been recognizable; its use of a style tending...

Notes

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pp. 183-196

Index

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pp. 197-200


E-ISBN-13: 9781587292286
E-ISBN-10: 1587292289
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877455998
Print-ISBN-10: 0877455996

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 1997

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Subject Headings

  • Uncertainty in literature.
  • Simic, Charles, 1938- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Stern, Gerald, 1925- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Wright, Charles, 1935- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Ashbery, John -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Dobyns, Stephen, 1941- -- Criticism and interpretation.
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