By Robert Pack, Jay Parini
Fifty-nine of America's top poets decide upon their favourite verse by means of one other author and discover its impression on their lonesome writing. Edited through Robert Pack and Jay Parini.
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From Julia Alvarez's shrewd reading of Elizabeth Bishop's dazzling villanelle "One Art," to Paul Zimmer's delicate and personally historical Page xiv response to John Clare, these essays are singularly unpredictable, witty, moving, andalmost alwayscelebratory. " J. D. " Other poets have chosen to write about less familiar poets, but they do so with a passion that makes their choice appear central to the enterprise of writing. This is true of Marvin Bell's inventive and amusing piece on Henry Reed's "The Naming of Parts" and of Anthony Hecht's brilliant analysis of "Gaze Not on Swans," an obscure yet powerful poem of the Renaissance era that may have been written by Henry Noel (it is attributed elsewhere to William Strode, although Hecht argues against this provenance).
Cummings shows us that science and poetry both depend on formal reasoning and faithful intuition; both are human creations, after all, two of our best attempts to understand the universe and our place in it. Abundance, contradiction, reason, joy, praise, despair, chaos, and formcummings contains all of these in the bending, relative space of the sonnet. , that the past has less to tell us than the present because the present offers a truer perspective on human affairs than could possibly have been provided a generation earlier, much less one or two hundred years ago.
Because it welcomes us with confident, lucid sentences. Because it is clearheaded and organized. Because it contains subject matter that matters. Why is it as good the tenth time as the first? Because it is greater than the sum of its parts. Reed's poem expresses how it feels to be in class while wanting to be elsewhere. It feels the difference between the mechanical and the human. It contrasts the cold and sometimes oppressive artificial order of civilization with the free sensuality of nature.
Touchstones: American Poets on a Favorite Poem (Bread Loaf Anthology) by Robert Pack, Jay Parini