Why Write Poetry?: Modern Poets Defending Their Art

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Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2007 - Literary Collections - 316 pages
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Poets have long been defending poetry in prose, and essays by Sidney, Shelley, and others are a familiar and important part of the Anglo-American literary tradition. This book identifies and examines a related genre - the verse defense of poetry - which shares the same impulse that has led to the composition of prose essays: namely, the desire to protect poetry from its detractors and to promote its value as a vital human endeavor. In the last century or so, this impulse to engage questions of poetry's value in poems has become increasingly widespread, and it has dominated the careers of at least five poets: H.D., Wallace Stevens, W. H. Auden, Adrienne Rich, and Geoffrey Hill. Though these poets espouse very different aesthetic principles, they, like many of their contemporaries, have repeatedly turned to apology in their verse. At first glance, this seems an odd gesture, given that the readers and writers of poetry are those who least need convincing of poetry's worthiness. But questioning poetry in verse is a form of lyric introspection that is productive and well-suited for a modern poet. characterized as one of indifference, defense helps these authors make a claim for poetry's cultural relevance, as well as for its private profit. Jeannine Johnson is a Preceptor in Expository Writing at Harvard University.
 

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Contents

You Shall Dwell Upon Superlatives The Prose Tradition of Apologetics
26
This is the New Heresy HD Poetry and War
56
We Like Poetry Because We Do Wallace Stevenss Paralogical Defense
101
Like a Poetry Lesson W H Audens Ritual Repetitions of Apology
151
Not How to Write Poetry but Wherefore Adrienne Rich and the Ethics of Poetry
187
Inspired Guesswork Geoffrey Hill Poetry and Prophecy
237
The Role of Society in the Artist Some Reflections and Predictions
272
Notes
282
Bibliography
304
Index
313
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Page 33 - Poetry is indeed something divine. It is at once the centre and circumference of knowledge ; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred. It is at the same time the root and blossom of all other systems of thought...
Page 29 - I must send you in the behalf of all poets ., that while you live, you live in love, and never get favor, for lacking skill of a sonnet ; and when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph.
Page 34 - Could this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of the results ; but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline, and the most glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the poet.

About the author (2007)

Jeannine Johnson is a Preceptor in Expository Writing at Harvard University.

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