University of Georgia Press

The Life of Poetry: Poets on Their Art and Craft

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The Life of Poetry: Poets on Their Art and Craft

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Flexible Lyric

Ellen Bryant Voigt

These nine eloquent and skillfully crafted essays by a distinguished poet examine the art of lyric poetry in all aspects of its design and structure. Through attentive readings of a variety of artists, including her contemporaries, Ellen Bryant Voigt celebrates the structure and elasticity of lyric poems. She argues for reading as a writer reads--with equal parts passion and analysis. Her analyses of the effects of tone, image, voice, and structure connect brilliant theory with tangible examples.

Intimate as well as informative, the collection begins with a discussion of the creative process and Voigt's fascination with the writing of Flannery O'Connor and Elizabeth Bishop. Readings of lyric poems by Shakespeare, Sidney, Poe, Stevens, Williams, Larkin, Bogan, Roethke, Plath, Levertov, Berryman, and others demonstrate the roles of gender, point of view, image, and music in poetry. An experienced teacher, Voigt focuses on the lyric but encourages, in any study of poetry, original thinking, attention to structure, and, above all, close reading of the work itself. An intelligent and thought-provoking marriage of art and scholarship, The Flexible Lyric exemplifies, with fierceness, dedication, and precision, how the making of poems is not just a trade but a calling.

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Muse in the Machine

Essays on Poetry and the Anatomy of the Body Politic

T. R. Hummer

Music, race, politics, and conscience. In these eight essays written over the span of a decade and a half, T. R. Hummer explains how, for him, such abiding concerns revolve around the practice of poetry and the evolution of a culturally responsible personal poetics. Hummer writes about the suicide of poet Vachel Lindsay, the culture wars at the National Endowment for the Arts, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the divided soul of his native American South, and the salving, transcendent practice of musicianship. Inevitably entwined with a personal or cultural component, Hummer's criticism is thus grounded in experience that is always familiar and often straight to the heart in its rightness.

In one of those statements of "poetic purpose" that goes hand in hand with a residency, guest editorship, or lecture tour, Hummer once wrote that "poetry inhabits and enunciates an incommensurable zone between individual and collective, between body and body politic, an area very ill-negotiated by most of us most of the time. Our culture, with its emphasis on the individual mind and body, teaches us very little about how even to think about the nature of this problem. . . . E pluribus unum is a smokescreen: what pluribus; what unum? And yet this phrase is an American mantra, as if it explained something." This is a quintessential Hummer moment: a writer has just given himself a good reason to quit. What Hummer knows must happen next is what The Muse in the Machine is all about.

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Poetry as Survival

Gregory Orr

Intended for general readers and for students and scholars of poetry, Poetry as Survival is a complex and lucid analysis of the powerful role poetry can play in confronting, surviving, and transcending pain and suffering.

Gregory Orr draws from a generous array of sources. He weaves discussions of work by Keats, Dickinson, and Whitman with quotes from three-thousand-year-old Egyptian poems, Inuit songs, and Japanese love poems to show that writing personal lyric has helped poets throughout history to process emotional and experiential turmoil, from individual stress to collective grief. More specifically, he considers how the acts of writing, reading, and listening to lyric bring ordering powers to the chaos that surrounds us. Moving into more contemporary work, Orr looks at the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Stanley Kunitz, and Theodore Roethke, poets who relied on their own work to get through painful psychological experiences.

As a poet who has experienced considerable trauma--especially as a child--Orr refers to the damaging experiences of his past and to the role poetry played in his ability to recover and survive. His personal narrative makes all the more poignant and vivid Orr's claims for lyric poetry's power as a tool for healing. Poetry as Survival is a memorable and inspiring introduction to lyric poetry's capacity to help us find safety and comfort in a threatening world.

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