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Even Wallace Stevens, now probably more secure in his literary status than any other American poet of this century, was generally regarded during his life- time as a quirky literary eccentric rather than a major poet. In fact, apart from T. We can now say with some assurance that Whitman and Dickinson are the two centrally important American poets of the nineteenth century. As we approach the present day, however, there is far less consensus about who the major poets are.

Not only are there more poets writing and publishing than ever before, but there is also a far more diverse mix of poetic subcultures dividing the available attention of readers. No other country has produced a comparable range of poetry by writers with a greater diversity of backgrounds. Each region of the country celebrates its own school of poets, as does each ethnic and racial group. Poets of other ethnic identities — including Italian American, Jewish American, and Arab American — are celebrated for their alternative visions of American life, and poetic groupings are made on the basis of such fac- tors as sexual preference and life and work experience Vietnam veterans, prisoners, children of Holocaust survivors as well as stylistic and formal considerations formalist poetry, experimental poetry, mainstream lyric po- etry, spoken-word poetry, visual poetry.

Although no introductory guide of this length can do justice to both the range and the artistic achievement of American poetry in the twentieth century, my goal in this book has been to include a broad enough spectrum of poets to demonstrate the diver- sity of American poetic writing, while still providing a useful guide to the achievements of individual poets. Chapter 1 A new century: from the genteel poets to Robinson and Frost With the deaths of both Walt Whitman and John Greenleaf Whittier in , an era in American poetry came to a close. The years from to were something of a dark age for Ameri- can poetry.

Not able to compete with novelists in terms of popularity, and not willing to risk moving beyond the familiar models of nineteenth-century verse, poets settled for an uncontro- versial mediocrity of idea, form, and rhetoric. Eliot would be obliged to go abroad. However, the number of American poets of the period who looked to the contemporary literature of London or Paris for inspiration was still rel- atively small.

While they respected Whitman, they did not attempt to imitate the power of his style. Instead, they emulated the dominant style of Victorian poetry: earnest, traditional, elegiac, formally crafted, and often highly sentimental. Bid, then, the tender light of faith to shine By which alone the mortal heart is led Unto the thinking of the thought divine.

Edwin Arlington Robinson Robinson was born in , making him the oldest of the American poets who successfully made the transition into the twentieth century. Though he spent two years at Harvard University in the early s, Robinson never became part of the Harvard School of poets. Instead, he returned to Gardiner after the death of his father and began to write the poems that would eventually be published in The Torrent and the Night Before and The Children of the Night He suffered from chronic mastoiditis, a painful malady that ultimately left him deaf in one ear.

While he was an admirer of Wordsworth, Robinson was by no means a nature poet. Robinson also uses sound very effectively here, repeating certain vowels as a means of further dimin- ishing the self-importance of Cheevy. She fears him, and will always ask What fated her to choose him; She meets in his engaging mask All reasons to refuse him; But what she meets and what she fears Are less than are the downward years, Drawn slowly to the foamless weirs Of age, were she to lose him.

Each stanza functions somewhat like a chapter in a short novel or a scene in a tragic drama. In the powerful fourth stanza, Robinson again uses natural images to capture the psychological state of the woman: The falling leaf inaugurates The reign of her confusion. The pounding wave reverberates The dirge of her illusion; And home, where passion lived and died, Becomes a place where she can hide, While all the town and harbor side Vibrate with her seclusion. Where Robinson made brilliant use of sound and meter to em- phasize the meanings of his poems, Frost articulated a more theoretical formulation of the connection between sound and meaning.

He was born in San Francisco in , but his impulsive and alcoholic father died in at the age of thirty-four and the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts. But providing for himself and his growing family as a chicken farmer supplemented by a small bequest from his grandfather was a constant struggle. As a result of the constant shortage of money and the isolation of rural life, Frost at times contemplated suicide.

He rejected the insipid romanticism of most American verse of the time, and he set out to write a poetry more grounded in the reality of rural life and the immediacy of its spoken language. By the age of thirty-eight, he had yet to publish a book of his verse and had succeeded in placing only a few of his poems in magazines. Frost ridiculed the route of modernist exper- imentation followed by Pound, Eliot, Williams, and Cummings, preferring to adhere to more traditional forms of poetry. Though both Pound and F. Frost tends to use a plain and idiomatic language marked by a lack of multisyllable words, a relative avoidance of formal or literary diction, and a generally straightforward syntax.

Frost also uses a highly colloquial style, avoiding words that would seem unusual or unnatural in actual speech and attempting instead to duplicate the rhythm and syntax of speech. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again.


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We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. But here there are no cows. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade or trees. On a thematic level, this alternation also reenacts the fate of the wall itself, which is built and rebuilt only to be toppled over by hunters or the forces of nature.

On the contrary, Frost was a sophisticated writer who was well versed in Latin poetry and who knew as well as any poet of his time how to make effective use of formal and rhetorical strategies. Frost is a master at embedding rhetorical devices within apparently simple poems, making effective use of punning and word play, repetition, prosody the use of rhythm and meter , and metaphor. We have already seen this relation established through his use of repetition and syntax, but it is also apparent in his prosody. Throughout the poem, lines in blank verse unrhymed iambic pentameter play both within and against the metrical and structural impositions of the form.

Frost was a nature poet, but not in the naively romantic sense of a poet who celebrates the beauty or pastoral simplicity of nature. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Unlike birches, which can be manipulated by men and boys as well as the forces of nature, these straight and dark trees are a somewhat ominous presence which resists human interpretation.

The image of the farm-boy playing on the trees is clearly a vision of the poet as well. That would be good both going and coming back, One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. Frost ends the poem with typical understatement. Chapter 2 Modernist expatriates: Ezra Pound and T. Eliot The poetry of Robinson and Frost suggested one possible direction for American poets in the twentieth century: a reworking of traditional lyric forms that would require no radical break from nineteenth-century poetic convention.

In the eyes of some modern poets, however, the work of Frost and Robinson did not go far enough in the direction of a stylistic, formal, or conceptual breakthrough. Poets who participated in the poetic avant- garde of the s and early s, such as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, T. Eliot, and Marianne Moore, saw the poetry of Robinson and Frost as merely continuing an outworn tradition of verse. The world had indeed changed a great deal since the end of the nine- teenth century.

First of all, there was the new urban landscape and the increasing speed of communication and transportation. The construction of bridges, skyscrapers, and factories was radically altering the American landscape, while the radio, the telephone, the trolley, the subway train, and the automobile were transforming American life.

Gertrude Stein had become an expatriate writer even earlier, having settled in Paris in Hilda Doolittle arrived in London in , and Eliot two years later. Pound had the most con- troversial career of any twentieth-century poet, and his overall place in American literature is more controversial than that of any other modernist.

As a poet, a critic, and a promoter of other writers, Pound was central to the development of modernist poetry. Yet at the same time Pound was a literary vagabond who never felt entirely at home in any culture. He took a master of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in , and the following year he won a fellowship for travel to Italy and Spain in preparation for a doctoral dissertation on the playwright Lope de Vega.

It was his dismissal from Wabash on the grounds of having kept a young woman overnight in his rooms that convinced Pound of his unsuitability for academic life. Along with two other expatriate poets, H. Pound edited an anthology of Imagist verse, Des Imagistes , which contained the work of H. He also began writing a radically different kind of poetry which was at once more visual and more concise than his earlier work. Eliot 27 urban environment of the metro station — but also on its highly effective use of sound and rhythm. First of all, its compression was unprecedented: no English poem had been expected to carry so much meaning in so few words.

Secondly, by simply juxtaposing two complex images without comment and leaving the reader to establish a relation be- tween them, the poem allows for an extremely open-ended set of possible meanings. On the eve of World War I, however, Pound saw the limitations of the Imagist movement, which he felt had been coopted and sentimentalized by the poet Amy Lowell who published several Imagist anthologies of her own. Along with the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and the painter and novelist Wyndham Lewis, Pound helped found a new movement called Vorticism. The Vorticists encouraged a more dynamic approach to poetry, seeking the hardness and precision of sculpture rather than the static beauty of the image.

Pound also established relationships with various journals — including The Little Review, Poetry, and The Egoist — and with other writers, including Eliot and Frost. As the poem ends, Pound adopts more evocative imagery to suggest a realization of the time that has passed and the anonymity under which the soldiers serve their rulers: When we set out, the willows were drooping with spring, We come back in the snow, We go slowly, we are hungry and thirsty, Our mind is full of sorrow, who shall know of our grief?

Pound creates a verbal energy through a series of clear, direct statements, allowing thoughts and images to emerge free of poetic embellishment. Pound also obeys the Imagist dictum concerning concision, presenting a scene in the fewest possible words. Finally, the rhythms of the Cathay poems owe more to the model of Anglo-Saxon accentual meter than to iambic pentameter; these meters sounded fresh to modern readers, contributing to the spare but evocative na- ture of the poems. Bones white with a thousand frosts, High heaps, covered with trees and grass.

These lines cannot be read fast. The importance of the ideogram, in the theory expressed by Fenellosa and accepted by Pound, was that since the Chinese characters were at their root composed of actual pictures they were by na- ture more concrete, expressive, and poetic than alphabetic writing. It may appear surprising for an experimental modernist poet to have turned to a model from classical antiquity, but Pound very deliberately chooses a neglected Latin poet — a contemporary of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid who failed to achieve their degree of literary fame — whose work can be dusted off and presented in an entirely fresh and modern way.

Published in , the poem was a sequence of shorter lyrics tracing the life and career of a poet based on Pound himself. In comparing the products of modern industrial society with the poetry of Sappho, Pound supplies a kind of ideogrammatic picture of the decay of Western culture. Though Pound would return to free verse in The Cantos, here he makes brilliantly ironic use of the stanzaic form, creating unex- pected and humorous rhymes and playing with a variety of metrical forms. He would continue to write new Cantos and publish them as separate volumes over the next half century.

Eliot 33 can be seen as taking the form of an experimental poetic autobiography, in which Pound often speaks in his own voice rather than those of his personae, and in which the poet becomes the protagonist of his own work. The story of Odysseus is one of the many stories, or myths, that will make up The Cantos, like fragments in a mosaic or collage.

The complexity of The Cantos is not only on the level of stories and themes, but also on the level of language, form, and style. Li Sordels si fo di Montovana. So-shu churned in the sea. In the following lines, however, Pound shifts to an entirely different po- etic register, evoking a series of metamorphoses that seem far removed from the story of Sordello.

By the end of the second Canto, Pound has already established three models for the long poem he is writing: the classical epic, based primarily on narrative Homer ; the historical poem, based on character Browning ; and the metamorphic poem, based on the transformative power of the lyric imagination Ovid. Canto II is written with an intensity of language that has rarely been matched in modern English or American poetry.

The Cantos cannot easily be compared to any other modern poem, for no other attempt at the modernist epic contains its scope, its complexity, and its universalizing power. The Cantos is by no means a work of consistent poetic achievement. In recent years, The Cantos has undergone a great deal of critical scrutiny — from political and ideological points of view as well as from more strictly lit- erary perspectives — but it remains a puzzling text to most readers.

Louis, Missouri, both sides of his family were descended from old New England stock. Louis as well as its chief institution of higher learning, Wash- ington University. Eliot attended Smith Academy in St. Louis and Milton Academy in Massachusetts before entering Harvard in A precocious literary talent, Eliot began writing poetry while still a school boy, and by the age of twenty-two he had published several quite accomplished poems. Eliot 37 Jules Laforgue. Eliot completed his PhD dissertation on the philosophy of F.

Bradley — having pursued his academic studies at the Sorbonne, Harvard, and Oxford — but he never returned to Harvard to defend the thesis and receive his degree. Like Pound, Eliot felt the urge to live and write in Europe, and after he decided to settle permanently in England. Eliot 39 characters who reveal telling details about their lives, this poem is in the voice of an invented persona about whom we learn relatively little. Do I dare to eat a peach?

There are two similes in the opening lines, both of which would have seemed highly unusual, even shocking, to post-Victorian readers. Eliot is clearly working against this kind of Romantic image, forcing the reader to accept a very different register of diction in place of Romantic idealization. In a literal sense, the evening cannot be separated from the sky which provides its physical manifestation; yet here the sky is treated as a kind of backdrop — a stage or screen, perhaps — against which the evening is projected.

Is the evening sick, requiring some kind of operation? Is the evening drugged, put out of its pain just as Prufrock himself desires to be anaesthetized against a hostile and uncomfortable world? That is not it, at all. The story of Lazarus is the crowning mir- acle revealing Jesus as the giver of life. In fact, as A. Eliot had suffered greatly from a disastrous marriage to Vivien Haigh- Wood in The other important context for the poem was World War I and its aftermath, which clearly took its toll on Eliot as it did on every writer or artist of his time.

Perhaps no modern poem has received as much critical attention as The Waste Land: as a result, interpretations of the poem are extremely varied. The poem has been read as a critique of contemporary civilization, as a kind of modern-day dejection ode, as a Dantean descent into hell, as an experiment in stream-of-consciousness technique, as a pastoral elegy, as an attempt to create a new mythic structure, as a poem of the modern city, and as a poem of imperial apocalypse.

The poem was assembled from various pieces Eliot had written over a period of several years, and it was heavily cut and revised based on suggestions from Pound. The condition of man seen in the poem was felt to be contemporaneous and perennial, modern yet essentially the same in all times and places. The king is dead, and the land lies in a state of infertile desert; only when the king is healed or resurrected can the spring return, bringing with it the rain needed to sustain life.

The poem moves from the desire for death represented by the Cumaean Sibyl in the epigraph to the beginnings of new life at the end. It begins with some of the most celebrated lines in all of modern poetry: April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful show, feeding A little life with dried tubers. The permutations of desire and memory are the thematic thread that holds the poem together. Clearly, in this poem, desire is a dangerous commodity: it can lead to disappointment, to frustration, to sordid affairs and unwanted children, and even to violence.

For Eliot, this encounter is clearly emblematic of the modern waste land as it impacts the lives of both men and women. Eliot ends the passage with an ironic commentary: When lovely woman stoops to folly and Paces about her room again, alone, She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, And puts a record on the gramophone. Modern expatriates: Ezra Pound and T. Yes, bad. Stay with me. The ending of The Waste Land was the closest Eliot could come, at this stage of his life, to anything resembling formal or the- matic closure. Stevens and Crane represent, in very different ways, the twentieth-century synthesis of post-Romantic lyricism and modernist innovation.

Modernist poetry, as we have seen in the work of Pound and Eliot, involved a rejection of the inherited models of traditional English poetry. The nineteenth-century lyric, the modernists felt, had too often relied on the beauty and melodiousness of its language rather than on the depth or complexity of its thought. With the Imagist movement of the s, poets began to move away from a reliance on musicality and sonic richness and toward a greater precision and directness of language.

The language of late-nineteenth-century lyric was assumed to express in its intensest form the subjectivity and personality of the poet himself. The poetic mode typical of Stevens, on the other hand, is one in which he contemplates the workings of the imagination itself. Born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania, where his father was a lawyer, Stevens attended high school in Reading and then entered Harvard. During his three years at Harvard, Stevens studied French and German, read philos- ophy, wrote poems, and became editor of the Harvard Advocate, the same magazine in which Eliot would later publish his early poems.

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He also met a number of aspiring poets, including Witter Bynner and Walter Arensberg, and became friendly with George Santayana, whose dual interest in poetry and philosophy resembled his own. In he joined the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, where he was employed for the rest of his career, working his way up to the position of vice president by Like Frost, Stevens was relatively late in reaching his poetic maturity: he was forty-four when Harmonium was published, and he took another twelve years to bring out a second volume, Ideas of Order.


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  • The book was at once traditional and experimental, conforming neither to the programmatic experimentalism of the Imagists nor to the traditional notion of poetry as formal and high-minded. Lyric modernism: Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane 53 I will focus my discussion on Harmonium, not only because it contains many of his most celebrated and frequently anthologized poems, but also because it introduced the major preoccupations which would continue to occupy Stevens throughout his poetic career.

    The poems of Harmonium fall into several generic categories. Stevens differs from poets like William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore — both of whom were more closely allied with Imagist practice — in being primarily a lyric poet and only secondarily a descriptive or objective poet. The bucks clattered.

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    To the right, to the left, And Bristled in the way. Or until. But the minimalist and anti-referential language of the poem ultimately frustrate any attempt at entering its world of particulars. Here again, Stevens departs from an image-based poetic. Why must one have it? The argument of the poem moves through a series of syntactic turns that reproduce the movement of a mind accustomed to thinking in logical or philosophical terms. It was a small part of the pantomime. The section can be read on its own — as a discrete Imagist lyric — but it should more properly be read in relationship to the other sections, creating a far more complex poetic text.

    She dreams a little, and she feels the dark Encroachment of that old catastrophe, As a calm darkens among water-lights. The pungent oranges and bright, green wings Seem things in some procession of the dead, Winding across wide water, without sound, Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet Over the seas, to silent Palestine, Dominion of the blood and sepulchre. Lyric modernism: Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane 57 Instead, the reader is forced to create a composite meaning out of the various denotations and connotations of the two words.

    Already, Stevens has taken the reader far beyond a strictly Imagist percep- tion of the scene: he has presented a central character, established the basis of a narrative, supplied the crux of a philosophical argument between the nostalgia for religious belief and the acceptance of our existence in a secular world , and introduced the three central symbolic motifs of the poem: fruit, birds, and water.

    The tension between visual and non-visual elements is a major structuring principle of the stanza. Divinity must live within herself. Stevens is masterful in representing through sound the argument the poem will make: Christianity is a religion of the dead with little value in the modern world, while true divinity lies in the human and its relation to nature and natural process. The form and rhetoric of the poem are relatively traditional: as Harold Bloom suggests, the poem is heavily indebted to the tradition of the Romantic Sublime as practiced by Keats, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Whitman.

    Yet at the same time the persuasive- ness of the poem is largely dependent on the ways in which Stevens breaks with or manipulates traditional form and language. Instead, let me suggest two of its more important struc- tural features: its use of the dialogue form, and its repetition of symbolic motifs. Not this dividing and indifferent blue. The second important structuring principle of the poem is the repetition of symbolic motifs which occur in slightly different form throughout the poem.

    You will have stopped revolving except in crystal. Yeats, under whose collective shadow he began his career. As he wrote in a letter to Gorham Munson: There is no one writing in English who can command so much respect, in my mind, as Eliot. However, I take Eliot as a point of departure toward an almost complete reversal of direction. I would apply as much of his erudition and technique as I can absorb and assemble toward a more positive, or if I must put is so in a skeptical age ecstatic goal.

    Crane also began a serious study of poetry in the late s and early s. In the spring of , Crane moved to an apartment building in Brooklyn which overlooked the Brooklyn Bridge: the sight of the bridge helped inspire the creation of The Bridge, which occupied most of his time and energy for the next six years. After the publication of the poem in , Crane was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship; he used the money to travel to Mexico, where he hoped to begin a new epic. On the return voyage in , however, Crane jumped from the ship on which he was traveling and committed suicide.

    Their numbers as he watched, Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured. High in the azure steeps Monody shall not wake the mariner. This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps. The instruments we have invented to measure space — the compass, quadrant, and sextant — cannot measure such eternities as death.

    Before writing The Bridge, however, Crane had experimented twice before with longer forms. Similarly, the language of the poem suggests a break from normative speech or writing. It is at least a symphony with an epic theme, and a work of considerable profundity and inspiration. The Bridge encompasses a number of places, historical moments, and characters.

    The poem also moves through an astonishing array of literary styles, from free verse to blank verse to rhymed quatrains, from montage sequences to rhythms based on ballads, blues, and jazz. The unifying symbol of the poem is that of the bridge, which represents a connection of the present moment both to the past and to the future. The bridge also evokes other themes that run as important motifs through the poem. Finally, the metaphor of the bridge as a harp is suggested by the visual presence of the long cables supporting its span.

    In fact, Crane was not well suited — either poetically or temperamentally — to writing the kind of long and complex poem The Bridge would become in its seven-year gestation. The most compelling parts of The Bridge are those in which the lyric voice and the presentation of contemporary or historical details form an imaginative synthesis that provides a new way of viewing the world. Under thy shadow by the piers I waited; Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.

    To analyze these stanzas in any kind of detail would require more space than we have here, but I will suggest a few directions such an analysis could take. The poet is seen in his three guises: as prophet, pariah, and lover. Yet if The Bridge looks back to Whitman and the Romantics, it also looks forward to the poetry of the generation that followed Crane. Hilda Doolittle , women poets of the modernist era have not fared especially well in ac- counts of American literary history.

    Not only has the importance of women modernists often been overlooked by male poets and critics, but it was at times deliberately suppressed by male writers who were threatened by the entry of women into the world of literary high culture. Both Moore and H. Vincent Millay, Laura Riding Jackson, Sara Teasdale, and Elinor Wylie — often neglected by anthologists and critics in the past — has been rediscovered by readers and critics less under the sway of high modernist tastes. And the work of populist women poets such as Genevieve Taggard and Lola Ridge is at last beginning to attract a greater amount of critical attention.

    While the experimentalists engaged in formal and linguistic innovation rivalling and at times exceeding that of their male counterparts, the traditionalists made use of more conventional forms such as the sonnet, within which they could explore their personal experiences as well as their gendered position in society. Both groups were clearly concerned with the issue of gender and its implication for the production of literary texts.

    Another unifying trait in the poetry by women of the period was a deep ambivalence about traditional constructions of gender. At various points in their careers, Lowell, H. Vincent Millay and the feminist lyric Edna St. Vincent Millay is often read — perhaps unfairly — as the poetic counterexample to more experimental work by women modernists.

    Millay was born in Rockville, Maine, in After her parents divorced in , her mother encouraged Millay and her sisters to pursue both read- ing and music. Millay attended Vassar College, where she studied literature and acted in plays. It was her training in both music and drama she at one point con- sidered a career as a professional actress that no doubt accounted for the uniquely lyrical and dramatic sense of her poetry. The poem may be dismissed by some readers as sentimental, and it is certainly not a work of modernist sensibility, but it managed better than any other poem of the time to capture the exhilarating sense of freedom characterizing the new era.

    The poem is constructed around a single image, the candle, which clearly serves as a metaphor for the female body. The sonnets are unsentimental and antiromantic, as Millay uses precise imagery to convey the experience of her protagonist with a devastating realism. In the course of the sequence, we learn the history of the woman, who had been betrayed by loneliness and desire into an unfortunate marriage. In style and tone, the sonnets are probably closer to the work of Frost than to that of any other American poet; like Frost, Millay shows an impressive rhetorical dexterity in working with traditional forms and a profound understanding of human relationships.

    Millay provides a description of a relationship which — far from romanti- cized — is shown in its most destructive aspect. The reader witnesses her engaging in domestic tasks in a masochistic and seemingly pointless pattern. Amy Lowell and Imagism The career of Amy Lowell is in many ways representative of the position of women poets during this period. While the poem lacks the concision Pound called for in his Imagist man- ifestoes or the austerity H. Such forthright eroticism had rarely been seen in American poetry since Whitman, and it announced Lowell as a poet willing to take aesthetic and moral risks.

    In the summer of Lowell went to visit Pound, the leader of the Imagist movement, in England. Soon, however, Pound decided to move on, abandoning Imagism for Vorticism. From that point on, Pound and Lowell were to remain literary enemies. Nevertheless, Lowell achieved more literary fame than that of any other woman poet of the early s. Why are we Already mother-creatures, double-bearing, With matrices in body and in brain? With my powdered hair and jewelled fan, I too am a rare Pattern. As I wander down The garden path. For the man who should loose me is dead, Fighting with the Duke in Flanders, In a pattern called a war.

    What are patterns for? For a woman poet in the early twentieth century to compare her lesbian love poem to one of the great masterpieces of Western art was in itself an audacious move. For me, You stand poised In the blue and buoyant air, Cinctured by bright winds, Treading the sunlight. And the waves which precede you Ripple and stir The sands at my feet. But as opposed to Lowell, whose literary sphere became increasingly American, H. She was psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud in Vienna in —34 , and she died in Switzerland in Though much of the critical attention that has been paid to H.

    The poems of Sea Garden exemplify the Imagist mode at its most successful. For the Imagists it is the visual image that is privileged above all other modes of representation. If poetic language was ever to become capable of a concrete description of the world, the Imagists believed, it would need to show the world to the reader in terms that are free of all abstraction, banality, or sentimentality, and the most effective way of doing this was to present clear, unadorned visual images.

    The poems are evocations not simply of natural landscapes, but of a classical world inhabited by the gods, goddesses, and other human and mythological characters of ancient Greece. Like Pound, H. As has often been noted, H. As Elizabeth Dodd puts it, revisionist mythmaking offered H. The very myths that might connote heroism and moral strength to a male poet could be seen by women poets in light of their patriarchal narratives and their victimization of women.

    The poems in Sea Garden can be read as early examples of the feminist strain that would be found throughout the writing of women modernists. As Susan Stanford Friedman notes, H. Here, H. You are clear O Rose, cut in rock, hard as the descent of hail. I could scrape the colour from the petals like spilt dye from a rock. If I could break you I could break a tree.

    If I could stir I could break a tree — I could break you. The speaker here a thinly veiled version of the poet herself wants to seize or possess the image, but is unable to do so. The attempts to capture the image or in some way control it become increasingly conditional and ineffectual. It is in this sense of powerlessness before the image that we see H. In the two volumes H. In these volumes, H. These heroines — creators of life, consorts of mythic heroes, legendary beauties, sorceresses, and visionaries — are often transformed into works of art in H.

    All Greece hates the still eyes in the white face, the lustre as of olives where she stands and the white hands. Marianne Moore and the poetics of gendered modernism Of all the women modernists, only Marianne Moore was able to occupy a secure position within the male-dominated literary world. She attended Bryn Mawr College where H. By the time of her graduation, Moore had decided to attempt a career as a writer, but it was several years before she was able to begin placing her poems in little magazines. In , she moved with her mother to New York City, where she worked as a tutor before taking a job as an assistant librarian at the New York Public Library.

    During these years, Moore continued to develop her tastes in literature and the visual arts: by , she was reading the work of Pound, Eliot, H. The publication of her poems during the late s and early s in magazines like Poetry, The Egoist, The Little Review, Others, and The Dial placed Moore squarely in the center of the burgeoning poetic avant- garde.

    In July she was appointed acting editor of The Dial, and she became the permanent editor the following year, holding that position until the magazine closed in the summer of Despite her close ties to Imagist poets such as Pound and H. What Moore shared with the Imagists was a clarity and precision of language, a highly evocative use of visual imagery, and a desire to make a strong break from post-Romantic conventions of poetic style.

    Moore may have been more closely allied with Imagism than with the symbolist strain in modernist poetry, but her use of stanzaic forms, end rhyme, and syllabically regular lines marked her style as distinct from Imagist practice. Moore also uses sound alliteration, assonance, and rhyme as well as the rhythms created by lines and line-breaks to disrupt normal reading strategies. It reconnoitered like a battle- ship. Disbelief and conscious fastidiousness were ingredients in its disinclination to move.

    Finally its hardihood was not proof against its proclivity to more fully appraise such bits of food as the stream bore counter to it; it made away with what I gave it to eat. I have seen this swan and I have seen you; I have seen ambition without understanding in a variety of forms. Moore makes a skillful use of the stanzaic form to reenact the visual move- ment of the ant, turning back on itself and then returning — across the stanza break — to where it started. At the same time she uses a far less pretentious diction than she did in describing the swan, employing everyday language to create a tone that is sympathetic rather than ironic.

    The form of the poem itself plays with its own fastidiousness: on the one hand, it is exacting and meticulous in its rhythmical pattern — the lines of each stanza conforming to the same syllabic count — yet on the other hand it breaks formal rules about rhyme, line endings, and even the coherence of stanzas. The poem concludes with a quotation taken from a statue of Daniel Webster, one of the most famous American orators and statesmen of the nineteenth century, and a quintessential representative of the form of patri- archy Moore seeks to critique.

    The poem voices a deep cynicism about marriage as both a public and private enterprise. The radically juxtaposed statements that make up most of the poem suggest that Moore will not take the kind of settled stand represented by Webster. Her stance is not that of the orator, more interested in appearing statesmanlike than in upholding moral or personal principles. Most often, she reveals the play of her own mind around the complexities of a subject and then leaves it to the reader to put the pieces into a coherent whole.

    A prac- ticing family doctor who continued to care for his patients throughout his poetic career, Williams grounded his poems in a direct engagement both with the object world and with the contemporary social environment of the region where he lived and worked: the area around Rutherford and Pater- son, New Jersey.

    It is a poetry that celebrates the local American scene while remaining determinedly experimental in its form and language. During the period from to American poetry experienced a resurgence that was unprecedented in its breadth and intensity, as a steady stream of emerging new talent trans- formed the literary landscape. Cummings, Yvor Winters, and Jean Toomer. These magazines made possible the publication of poetry that was considered too experimental for the larger magazines and that lacked the popular appeal of more mainstream writ- ing.

    For Williams, the paint- ings of the late impressionists, the cubists, the fauvists and the expressionists was a revelation, suggesting that exciting new directions were possible in all the arts, including poetry. It was a time when poetry was developing in close contact with the other arts, and when poets ardently believed themselves to be participating in the creation of revolutionary new forms.

    This desire for novelty was expressed most clearly by Williams in Kora in Hell : Nothing is good save the new. If a thing have novelty it stands intrinsically beside every other work of artistic excellence. If it have not that, no loveliness or heroic proportion or grand manner will save it. William Carlos Williams Williams was born in in Rutherford, New Jersey, and spent most of his life living and working in the same vicinity.

    His father was of British birth and was raised in the West Indies; his mother was born in Puerto Rico and spoke mostly Spanish in the home. Williams was fascinated and somewhat awed by Pound, who though younger was already more accomplished and committed as a poet. Williams was not deterred, however, continuing to write even as he set up his medical practice, married, and began a family.

    He saw the paintings in the Armory Show, met artists such as Duchamp, Man Ray, and Steiglitz, and became a member of the group surrounding the magazine Others. In his characteristic poems of the late s and early s, Williams sought to capture a sense of lived reality and of the particularity of the physical world. Parts of the physical world that might appear inconsequential to another poet are often what Williams chooses to highlight. At ten A. I pass solitary in my car. The noiseless wheels of my car rush with a crackling sound over dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

    Nevertheless, Williams by no means rejects tradi- tional literary devices in the poem. Older now I walk back streets admiring the houses of the very poor: roof out of line with sides the yards cluttered with old chicken wire, ashes, furniture gone wrong; the fences and outhouses built of barrel staves and parts of boxes, all, if I am fortunate, smeared a bluish green that properly weathered pleases me best of all colors. Finally, the poems in Spring and All can be read as illustrations or ex- amples of the argument Williams makes in the prose sections.

    Toward the close of the volume, Williams provides his most coherent account of the imagination: Imagination is not to avoid reality, nor is it description nor an evocation of objects or situations. But in the latter part of the poem, we begin to witness signs of rebirth rising from the mud. The prose context of the poem within the text of Spring and All — a book devoted to the renewal of the imagination — also suggests that Williams also had in mind the birth of new forms of poetry. Cummings and Robinson Jeffers in the s It might have seemed to a follower of American poetry in the mids that it was E.

    Cummings, rather than W. Williams, who was the rising star of the poetic avant-garde.

    Born in in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his father was a Con- gregationalist minister and a former Harvard professor, Cummings grew up in a securely middle-class environment and attended Harvard, where he studied classics and English literature and joined the editorial board of the Harvard Monthly. Though Cummings had been writing poems regularly since the age of eight, it was at Harvard that he began to write and publish in a more serious way, inspired by the exciting cultural environment of the mids and by the discovery of Keats and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

    In , he and several of his classmates published an anthology of their poems, Eight Harvard Poets. That same year, Cummings went to France to serve in the ambulance corps, and he was detained for three months at a prison camp in Normandy on suspicion of espionage. Out of this experience, he wrote one of the most important autobiographical novels of the modernist era, The Enormous Room Later publications included the experimental play Him , a book of collected stories, epigrams, and puns , and an experimental account of his trip to the Soviet Union, Eimi At the same time, Cummings maintained a successful career as a visual artist, exhibiting his paintings on many occasions.

    Cummings is best known as a lyric poet who wrote on themes of love and nature, but he was also one of the most effective poetic satirists of his age, often using his poems as skillful critiques of governmental policies and the ills of an overly consumeristic society. As a result, his typographical devices and playful dis- tortions of language sometimes feel like mere mannerisms, stylistic tics with no function except that of displaying themselves to the reader.

    While permanent faces coyly bandy scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D. Formally, the poem reenacts this struggle between conformity and liberation. William Carlos Williams and the modernist scene At the opposite end of the literary and geographical spectrum from Cum- mings was Robinson Jeffers, a poet best known for his long narrative poems set on the Monterey peninsula of central California. Born in in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and introduced to classical languages and the Bible as a young boy, Jeffers was educated in a series of Swiss boarding schools. The family moved to Los Angeles, California, a year later, where Jeffers attended Occidental College and began publishing poems in magazines.

    After graduating from college, Jeffers studied in a series of academic programs: literature and languages at the University of Southern California and the University of Zurich, medicine at Southern California, and forestry at the University of Washington.

    In , Jeffers married and moved with his wife to Carmel, where they built Tor House, a granite cottage overlooking the ocean. Enthusiastic reviews helped make Jeffers a popular as well as a critical success throughout the late s and early s; by the late s, however, he had dropped out of critical favor, in part because of his unpopular ideas, and in part because the dominant New Criticism of the period privileged a very different kind of poetry from that which Jeffers was writing. Nature appears to be in harmony, operating according to the cause and effect of cyclical process, and there is as yet no sign of human presence.

    Jeffers does not anthropomorphize nature in an attempt to understand or control it, but instead makes human actions and emotions appear to be simply part of a larger natural order. Finally, the poem gains much of its power from its rhythms and the force of its sound. Objectivism was in some ways an extension of Imagism, though it sought a greater complexity of thought and emotion than Imagism had provided. Although the work of twenty poets was included in the anthology, only four of them were of central importance to the original Objectivist group: Zukofsky, George Oppen, Charles Reznikoff, and Carl Rakosi.

    The appeal of Objectivism comes from three principal aspects of its poetics: a rejection of symbolist and subjective i.

    What Is Social Tagging?

    Most of the Objectivist poets were either members of the Commu- nist Party or fellow travelers during the s, and unlike the generation of modernists who had preceded them, they came from mostly urban, Jewish, working-class backgrounds. For them, sincerity connoted a commitment to their social and political situation. George Oppen argued that the Objectivist poetic of sincerity could be opposed to traditional post-Romantic poetics. In general, as we have seen in the work of Pound, Lowell, and H. Its setting is the New Jersey city from which it takes its title.

    A thorough reading of Paterson would require far more space than we can devote to it here. The importance the poem held for Williams is indicated by his decision to add another book after the completion of the original four-book project. By this time he had suffered a series of strokes, another of which was to follow later in that year.

    In the triadic stanza, each group of three lines moves progressively toward the right margin as it steps down the page; each line is to be given equal weight, despite the difference in the number of syllables from one line to another. This form helps contribute to the measured, slow, almost halting, but highly evocative and meditative quality of the later poetry. Asphodel has no odor save to the imagination but it too celebrates the light. It is late but an odor as from our wedding has revived for me and begun again to penetrate into all crevices of my world.

    In this moving love poem to his wife Flossie, the back-and-forth move- ment of the lines is suggestive of the alternation between past memories and the present act of writing the poem. At the same time, the variable line lengths allow Williams to place differing emphases on individual words and phrases while still maintaining an overall sense of formal structure. Chapter 6 From the Harlem Renaissance to the Black Arts movement The history of African American poetry in the twentieth century can be divided into three generational moments: the Harlem Renaissance of the s and early s, the post-Renaissance poetry of the s and s, and the Black Arts movement of the s and s.

    Finally, a third wave of African American poetry emerged in the late s with the Black Arts movement or Black Aesthetic. Harper produced poetry that was more clearly militant in its message and rawer in its language and form. This chapter will focus on the two most important cultural moments for African American poets in the twentieth century — the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts movement — with a brief discussion of the poets who constitute the middle generation.

    The Harlem Renaissance was the literary and artistic expression of ideas that had been developing within African American culture since the end of the Civil War. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Johnson of the Urban League.

    Similar authors to follow

    Another important source for the Harlem Renaissance was the literary tradition of African American writers. Two of the most celebrated black poets of the generation prior to that of the Renaissance writers were Paul Lawrence Dunbar and James Weldon Johnson. Dunbar wrote two basic types of poetry: poems in black dialect and poems in standard English. Such poems could be seen as expressing more directly the thoughts and feelings of the black race, but they could also be read as reinforcing negative racial stereotypes and conforming to a nostalgic vision of antebellum plantation life.

    Between and , the black population of New York increased from under , to over , While other northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland also saw dramatic increases in their black populations, none of them became centers for African American culture in the way New York City did. Harlem was a locus of migration not only for black Southerners, but also for foreign-born blacks, especially from the Caribbean.

    There were other gatherings at the homes of such luminaries as James Weldon Johnson, the novelist and critic Jessie Fauset, and the painter Aaron Douglas. There were journals such as Negro World, Crisis, and Opportunity, as well as a wide range of black newspapers. There was the American Negro Press, founded in Harlem in And there was an active nightlife, with music and dancing at places like the Sugar Cane Club — which boasted per- formers like Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong — as well as a number of speakeasies, ginhouses, and jazz bars.

    Langston Hughes arrived in New York in , drawn to the city mainly by the allure of Harlem, and enrolled in the fall of that year at Columbia University. He soon met W. McKay was born in Jamaica in , and published two books of dialect poems, Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads, in His next volume, Spring in New Hampshire and Other Poems, was published in England in , but by that time he had already led an eventful life, studying agriculture, opening a restaurant, working as a railroad dining-car waiter, and washing dishes in a boarding house.

    McKay chooses his words carefully, creating ironic contrasts which comment on the situation of blacks excluded from full participation in the American dream. McKay left the United States in and did not return until the s. Finally, Hughes and Cullen displayed very different attitudes toward their racial identity.

    Of the two poets, it was Hughes who was to become the leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance and the most important African American poet of the twentieth century. Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in , and grew up in Kansas and Illinois before attending high school in Cleveland, Ohio.

    By , he was publishing poems and stories in his high school magazine. After graduation, Hughes went to live for a year with his father in Mexico before moving to New York City to enter Columbia University. He withdrew from Columbia after one year and worked a series of jobs before traveling on a steamship to the west coast of Africa, later traveling by another ship to Europe. The stars went out and so did the moon.

    The singer stopped playing and went to bed While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. Too long has the taste of its water Been in my mouth. Too long has its evil poison Poisoned my blood. You forced me to the bitter river With the hiss of its snake-like song — Now your words no longer have meaning — I have drunk at the river too long. Two other poets — Jean Toomer and Sterling Brown — are often grouped with the Harlem Renaissance writers even though they did not live in Harlem and were not an active part of Harlem literary life. Toomer, who was born and raised in Washington, D. This trip to the South inspired his most important literary work, a collection of poems and stories that was published as Cane in The poems in Cane dramatize the conditions of life for blacks in the rural South rather than those living in the urban and industrial North.

    Black horses drive a mower through the weeds. His belly close to ground, I see the blade, Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds and shade. While the reapers prepare for the harvest by sharpening their scythes, a mower, driven by black horses, cuts through the weeds with indifferent violence, destroying a rat with its blades. The poem can be read both as a minutely detailed description of an agricultural scene, or as a densely sym- bolic poem about the contrast between the purposefulness of human beings and the automated disinterestedness of machines.

    In his college teaching jobs during the s, he was also exposed to the dialect and black folk traditions of the Southern countryside. Unlike the other major Renaissance po- ets, Brown wrote primarily in dialect. They weigh the cotton They store the corn We only good enough To work the rows; They keep the commissary They keep the books We gotta be careful For being cheated. Slim uses his rhetorical skills to diffuse oppressive or dangerous situations, thus satirizing the racist norms of white society.

    In order to return the situation to normal, the authorities are forced to send for an ambulance and pack him out of town. White Papers. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, Collins deftly lifts and prods, unearthing suspicions, stereotypes, and powerplays that have existed through centuries of systematic racial oppression. Her focus on race in America, nurtured in her semi-biographical Blue Front Graywolf , now opens into a growing awareness of her place in the racial context of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This is not, however, a book embroiled in the legacy of a racist, divided South although it includes poems that tackle violent incidents such as those surrounding the White Tree in Jena, Mississippi.

    Her perspective is one of growing up in an almost exclusively white area. Ferguson reflected in the documentation of white distance. They lived in the colored section of town, as if the White Pages map had been crayoned, little squares, inside the lines. Clipped syntax and thought mimics a state of feeling over reason, childishness over adulthood. In that one section titled only by date, the book reaches its apex, transforming truncated line and syntax into fluid energy.

    On his way to the Capitol largely built by slaves who baked bricks, cut, laid stone— on his way to stand before the Mall where slaves were held in pens and sold— on his way to the White House partly built by slaves, where another resident, after his Proclamation, wrote: If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

    In these lines, Collins encapsulates a final victory and astonishment; she celebrates the achievement of personal history and political moment. Fritz Ward. Even the delivery of these images feels extra-corporeal, as if the narrator is both absent and present in the moment, aware and detached. That meaning, or focus, becomes clear a few poems into the collection: love. This is no ordinary romanticism. Ward extends his penchant for play to this emotion, and the choice is very successful. Yes, stare close.

    That question needs further clarification. Is this a double of the author, the narrator of the entire collection, or the narrator of individual poems? Nick Ripatrazone. Boston: Gold Wake Press, Paper, 92 pp. The choice of form is a mild surprise. Ripatrazone enjoyed some early success writing short fiction, placing stark, tightly-written stories in a number of magazines, most notably Esquire and Kenyon Review. Oblations , then, is a marriage of these two talents, the gift of narrative control and the urge to render it in precise, striking language. The title poem serves as a prelude.

    From there, the book has a five-part structure, with a dozen poems each devoted to Barns, Baseball, Miscellanea, Work, and Parishes. Each of the Barn poems begins in the same manner, with a description of the structure and the people who own it. Rafters paled from swallows.

    New roof, The details here are particular and memorable, and the section ends just before the conceit grows too familiar. The baseball poems are a riskier venture, a dozen portraits of players from the dead-ball era roughly Said it was with one woman, then with another. His mother sat him down with the pastor and they made a list. Never discussed baseball. Kept a letter in his back pocket. Fumbled a catch each Wednesday in March during Miscellanea is the least cohesive section of the book, though the work there is no less finely wrought.

    Oblations closes with sections entitled Work and Parishes, respectively. The pieces in Work are brief and exact. But the parish selections are standouts, and rightly so: an oblation is essentially a humble offering to God. There are some missteps to account for in Oblations; many poems begin in a similar, fragmentary manner, enough to occasionally create a sense of sameness. One of the mechanics cut hair in the back. In a room behind the cars. Away from the oil but you could still smell it. Dana Levin. Sky Burial. When the language of an exterior source usurps poetic meditation, the writing risks diffusion into ephemera.

    Some poets, however, assimilate into their verse this massa intermedia—an anatomical term for a functionless gray mass within the brain, used here to describe language dormant in its original context—so as to invigorate the writing, through adjacency, toward synaptic electricity. Here again is death, but its origin is life. But the poems of Sky Burial are less elegies than tender autopsies in which Levin searches not for the cause of death but rather of life, the meaning of being the ritualizer instead of the ritualized. In this, the collection does not presume to reveal the ineffable but how to survive, transcend its silences.

    Selected Bibliography

    The stories in the collection were created over a period of nearly fifty years three stories come from The Touching Hand, published in , and the extended time span is easily palpable to the reader. It was falling down. This play between what we expect and what we receive returns time and again throughout this collection and scores one of its major conflicts.

    It is precisely this acknowledgement of not understanding her outside world that convinces us that she is aware enough to learn what she needs to fully be part of her new life. The gutters were running with filth and melted snow. It signals the birth of an awareness, of a transformation into something both worldly and resilient.

    We are swept along in the setting, in the story. It is only later, after we have finished reading, that we realize how much these characters will linger with us. Underlying its seeming puckishness, however, readers find meditations on the nature of mortality—how some of the most significant moments in our lives can be rooted in the very things we consider the most ordinary. It is in the juxtaposition and interpolation of these commonplace moments, in fact, that Hernandez reveals a world that is anything but. As the poem nears its close, the image of the moose, originally detailed in a documentarian mode, veers sharply to the personal.

    Again, in the space of a few lines, readers find a shuffling of parts that points toward the larger whole—a more serious exploration of the human condition. As isolated units, each poem feels fresh and surprising in the leaps it makes, but the obvious danger in using this or any technique so frequently in the broader scope of a collection is that the cumulative effect will be inferior to what one would otherwise anticipate; that each successive surprise becomes less surprising. In some regards, Hernandez sidesteps this pitfall by effectively staggering the poems based on their thematic and emotional content, as well as employing a voice that builds upon itself as readers delve deeper into the book.

    Still, there are moments when the quality of the language and attention to brevity seem to flag in service to technique—a choice that, in spots, seems to cast the collection as just that: an assemblage of good poems. Rather than carving out definite didactic spaces, the speaker probes with a childlike curiosity and invites readers to take part. His humor is sharp and insightful, the kind that, when the topmost layer is peeled back, reveals an honest survey of its environs.

    Yet these observations are not simplistic representations; rather, they are predicated on subtle epiphany, inducing readers to examine their preexisting notions of the surrounding world. Doorbell rings. Judgment is withheld, and readers are forced to follow their own thought processes long after leaving the realm of the poem. Hoodwinked is a book that uses the trivial as a springboard to the significant. The way ants deconstruct food at a picnic is every bit as relevant here as the dust that settles after a bomb detonates in Iraq.

    We live in a world where change can mean both improvement and deterioration. Every day, things are shifting outside of our control, and within that, we can never quite do everything we want, which is exactly what makes our time and how we choose to spend it so valuable. Gloss weaves these thematic strands into poems of praise and elegy that interrogate—sometimes directly, sometimes by suggestion—the changing Appalachian landscape and the multivalence of English speech.

    Many poems in Gloss deal with the destructive mining practice of mountaintop removal. Even at its most direct, Gloss chooses matter-of-factness over vitriol. Even at her most playful, Ida Stewart brings deep feeling and serious insight to the page as she propels her readers from poem to poem. That is exactly what Gloss does for us. For those who want to see how far the imagination can stretch words without sacrificing meaning, this is a necessary collection. Telling lies should be easy.

    Fiction writers and actors take commerce in elaborate conceits designed to suspend disbelief for an hour, for the length of a book. Biology tells us the survival of our genes eclipses every other concern, and everyone knows that the guilty may avoid just sentencing if they can afford a decent defense team. So what makes us confess? What compels us to tell the truth? Even if we know our friends and family—if attuned to our betrayals—would sever ties and never speak to us again? Would we still seek to purge our misdeeds to those who look up to us most?

    Or would we rather continue to conceal our blighted consciences and take our chances on a day of reckoning that seems unlikely to come? Like Glen, Will—as any parent—only wants to ferry his daughter to school safely and to expect that she can pedal her bike down the street without some maniac running her off the road. But then the writer part of me started thinking so what if no one saw it? What would happen then? Of course, the circumstances in the novel are different in that Glen served his car into the other lane to scare Juwan into slowing down, but the dark necessity that ensues hatches from a similar line of questioning.

    Like the Chandleresque noir aura seeded in the title, Long Drive Home zeros in on the facts beyond hypothetical evasion. Glen is liable, he knows it. More than that, he knows his daughter knows it, and even schemes—to his eventual shame—to keep his daughter out of therapy fearing she might confide the events which led up to the crash. She drummed her feet against the back of the passenger seat. The light changed.

    We turned onto West Montrose, then Vose. My knuckles went white on the steering wheel. So there it was. In this way, Allison cleverly demonstrates how crimes, when kept secret, implicate—and even traumatize—others in perpetuating a charade of fecklessness. Still, this faux separation doomed itself from the onset considering how the terms of this tacit pact, being unspoken, never had a chance to articulate themselves:. For that matter, had she really believed me? Surely the thought that I might still be lying had crossed her mind.

    Maybe it was a case of not wanting to know more. Of course, the problem with an unspoken agreement is that you can never be sure it exists. Away from your driveway. I guess I still had a hand on the wheel when I reached for her [Sara]. A guilty conscience can be tricky that way; knowing I was lying made it hard to believe anyone else could believe me.

    Either they must be persuaded to his cause or repelled away. This defensiveness later develops into paranoia, twisting every encounter with even those closest to him into an accusation. As a narrative of events, nothing gets dumped onto the reader. Everything relevant to the scene comes out precisely when needed to expedite plot, and we never meander aimlessly through back story.

    We move scene by scene with vital and visceral accuracy. He makes the argument that contemporary novelists are starting to move away from that idea, and are writing books that…can still be high-brow while being a page turner. While writing, Allison likes to keep a couple books on the table in case he gets stuck.

    It was all a letter from Glen to his daughter Sara. It would require Glen to say things to Sara that he already knows that she knows. So the sections in the book that are still letters are remnants of this original structure. Still, the Liz of Long Drive Home precisely represents the version of his wife that Glen would be ruminating upon at this time in his life. Glen—the narrator—feels irrevocably estranged from his ex-wife and daughter and is still trying to comprehend the events that derailed his family life. Ultimately, Glen is a man hoping to rebuild his image in the eyes of his daughter:.

    A lesson you could apply to your own life. Or that they always do, though not necessarily in the ways you might expect. Miroslav Penkov. East of the West: A Country in Stories. Hardcover, pp. They also confront the American immigrant experience, address notions of transience, and illuminate the restlessness of a modern, global life. However, the tales in this collection wish to specifically not be about one place or another, but instead delve into the gray area between locales. In this piece Penkov achieves a emotional tug-of-war between the past and present, between the old and the young, between here and there.

    In a very striking manner, these stories use people to illuminate place as much as they use place to explain people. The uncanny and reciprocal relationship Penkov constructs between his characters and the worlds they inhabit is, without a doubt, the real triumph of this debut. East of the West proves a marvelous debut from a writer with talent and heart, and readers everywhere would do well to trek with Penkov across his beloved eastern European landscape and then follow him to wherever he goes next.

    Her new offering, Bad Daughter , explores the complex and often fraught relationship between mothers and daughters. In Bad Daughter , that landscape is never an easy one—never black and white. The baby is an implant, a fresh cutting. She will take you away. Here, the speaker compares four sisters to the four tines of a fork:. The origin of the fork. Blame it on the knife,. The metaphor is complicated.

    The joys of Bad Daughter are not to be found only in these questions of family. Each poem, whether directly addressing the complexities of daughterhood announced in the title or not, plays an integral part in constructing Bad Daughter , a collection that is gracefully made, challenging, moving, and unquestionably whole. David Rigsbee. NewSouth Books , David Rigsbee has the kind of enviable journal and magazine credits that might suggest a high national profile. However, his many books have generally been published by small presses, which, given their limited resources for advertising and distribution, tend to find readers fit but few.

    He may be more widely known for his co-editorship of Invited Guest , a valuable University of Virginia Press anthology of twentieth-century Southern poetry, than for his own poems. The Red Tower thus seems likely to bring Rigsbee something more like the recognition he deserves. The book offers a substantial overview of his work: sixty-five previously collected poems and excerpts from two long sequences join sixteen new poems, providing a substantial overview of his forty-year career. The new poems come first; taken together, the opening three make a good introduction to the whole collection.

    Pointless speculation, says a contrapuntal voice, and yet that is what I did with my life. So the poem concludes. The dress says what all, exactly? Though Rigsbee often inserts himself into his poems, he hardly writes in the self-aggrandizing vein of much recent American poetry. The Red Tower is a very rich book, one difficult to do justice in a short review, but at least two more aspects need to be noted, if only briefly.