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Poets on Poetry

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Noise That Stays Noise

Essays

Cole Swensen

Praise for Cole Swensen:



"One of the most assured voices in contemporary poetry."
---Library Journal



"Engaging and delightful."
---Publishers Weekly
 
 A volume in the Poets on Poetry series, which collects critical works by contemporary poets, gathering together the articles, interviews, and book reviews by which they have articulated the poetics of a new generation.



Ezra Pound famously said that literature is "news that stays news," but recent experiments in poetry and the sciences allow us to enlarge the statement to bring information theory and biology to bear on the issue---in particular, how the information theory–based model of self-organization from noise offers a way to look at language as an art material as well as a mode of communication. This concept directs these essays on poetry by contemporary poet Cole Swensen.



Noise That Stays Noise covers a variety of subjects relevant to contemporary poetry and will give the general reader a broad notion of the issues that inform discourse around poetry today. Space---the conceptual geometry of poetry and its concrete mise-en-page---is an underlying theme of this collection, sometimes approached directly through the work of other twentieth-century poets, sometimes more obliquely through considerations of the role of the visual arts in contemporary poetry. This question of space and the shapes it includes and acquires offers a different way to look at some familiar writers, such as Mallarmé and Olson, and a way to introduce several more recent writers who may not yet be known to the general public.

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Orpheus in the Bronx

Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry

Reginald Shepherd

Orpheus in the Bronx not only extols the freedom language affords us; it embodies that freedom, enacting poetry's greatest gift---the power to recognize ourselves as something other than what we are. These bracing arguments were written by a poet who sings. ---James Longenbach A highly acute writer, scholar, editor, and critic, Reginald Shepherd brings to his work the sensibilities of a classicist and a contemporary theorist, an inheritor of the American high modernist canon, and a poet drawing and playing on popular culture, while simultaneously venturing into formal experimentation. In the essays collected here, Shepherd offers probing meditations unified by a "resolute defense of poetry's autonomy, and a celebration of the liberatory and utopian possibilities such autonomy offers." Among the pieces included are an eloquent autobiographical essay setting out in the frankest terms the vicissitudes of a Bronx ghetto childhood; the escape offered by books and "gifted" status preserved by maternal determination; early loss and the equivalent of exile; and the formation of the writer's vocation. With the same frankness that he brings to autobiography, Shepherd also sets out his reasons for rejecting "identity politics" in poetry as an unnecessary trammeling of literary imagination. His study of the "urban pastoral," from Baudelaire through Eliot, Crane, and Gwendolyn Brooks, to Shepherd's own work, provides a fresh view of the place of urban landscape in American poetry. Throughout his essays---as in his poetry---Shepherd juxtaposes unabashed lyricism, historical awareness, and in-your-face contemporaneity, bristling with intelligence. A volume in the Poets on Poetry series, which collects critical works by contemporary poets, gathering together the articles, interviews, and book reviews by which they have articulated the poetics of a new generation.

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Set in Motion

Essays, Interviews, and Dialogues

A. R. Ammons

Set in Motion collects for the first time the prose writings of A. R. Ammons, one of our most important and enduring contemporary poets. Hailed as a major force in American poetry by such redoubtable critics as Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler, Ammons has reflected upon the influences of luminaries like Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Frost, Stevens, and Williams while creating a compelling style and an artistic vision uniquely his own. Set in Motion includes essays, reviews, and interviews as well as a selection of Ammons's poems, with commentary from the author about their inspiration and effects. He takes up the questions that have been central to American poetry over the last forty years and connects them to the larger enterprise of living in a difficult, changing world. At a moment when the arts are under attack, Ammons reminds us of the crucial role poetry plays in teaching us to recognize and use sources of understanding that are irreducible to statement. A. R. Ammons is the author of Sphere, A Coast of Trees, and Garbage and was recently the editor of The Best American Poetry 1994. His awards include the MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, the Bollingen Prize, two National Book Awards, and prizes from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Book Critics Circle. He is Goldwin Smith Professor of Poetry, Cornell University.

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Show Me Your Environment

Essays on Poetry, Poets, and Poems

David Baker

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Windows and Doors

A Poet Reads Literary Theory

Natasha Saje

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Yes, There Will Be Singing

Marilyn Krysl

Yes, There Will Be Singing brings together Marilyn Krysl’s essays on the origins of language and poetry, poetic form, the poetry of witness, and poetry’s collaboration with the healing arts. Beginning with pieces on her own origins as a poet, she branches into poetry’s profound spiritual and political possibilities, drawing on rich examples from poets such as Anna Akhmatova, W.S. Merwin, and Vénus Khoury-Ghata. Krysl concludes with a selection of stories of her nursing and humanitarian work, powerfully connecting poetic expression with a generous and compassionate worldview.

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