Work Title: A Poetry Criticism Reader
Work Author(s): Jerry Harp and Jan Weissmiller, editors
University of Iowa Press
155 pages, Softcover $19.95
Reviewer: Camille-Yvette Welsch
Poet Robin Becker might call this book a fine example of "literary citizenship," in which poets and critics alike contribute to the contemporary, exigent discussion of the discipline. In this collection, some of the strongest citizens speak about poetry, its movements and some of its most beloved and bewildering practitioners in a series of essays meant to enlighten, inform, and intrigue readers prepared to enter the fray.
The editors (Weissmiller is a graduate from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a buyer at the Prairie Lights Bookstore; Harp is a visiting assistant professor of English at Lewis and Clark College) gathered eleven essays ranging in topics from ruminations on Eliot's legacy to the emergence of what Stephen Burt calls "the elliptical poets." The contributors (Burt, Jorie Graham, James Harms, Lyn Heijinian, Mark Jarman, Donald Justice, Dennis O'Driscoll, Helen Vendler, Karen Volkman, Joshua Weiner and Stephen Yenser) all write in the poet/scholar tradition made famous by T.S. Eliot.
Justice, Harms, and Jarman mimic the fine close readings of poet/scholar Randall Jarrell, whose essays, like these, were known for their accessibility and enthusiasm. The essays, on music in poetry, on James Tate, on three Justice poems, have the humor and warmth of a very knowledgeable friend ushering the reader into a new world.
Vendler, a renowned critic and Harvard professor, introduces Polish poet and Nobel...