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Common Knowledge 9.1 (2003) 166-167

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Donald Davie, Two Ways Out of Whitman: American Essays (Manchester, U.K.: Carcanet, 2000), 202 pp.

Small pieces of great lucidity touching on the history, canon, aesthetics, and future of American poetry; lectures, reviews, and poems selected and arranged, not always chronologically, but so as to unfold a vision of the subject more comprehensive than we have known Davie afforded. If this arrangement distorts, it is by ending with his slavish praise of the Black Mountain poets rather than with his more recent, prescient, and revolutionary remarks about William Carlos [End Page 166] Williams: "A poet who was, or pretended to be, mindless—is this the effigy we are to hang our garlands on? If we persist in doing so, the consequences may be far-reaching, and not just for poetry." Current events bear out the complacencies that have attended our willful refusals of consciousness. Hang your garlands here.


Belle Randall

Belle Randall is the author of several books of poetry, including Drop Dead Beautiful, The Orpheus Sedan, and 101 Different Ways of Playing Solitaire.



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