Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry

David Baker, Editor, Ann Townsend, Editor
David Baker, Editor, Ann Townsend, Editor Graywolf Press $15 (279p) ISBN 978-1-55597-460-2
Reviewed on: 01/22/2007
Release date: 01/01/2007
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This collection of 25 essays by seven prominent poet-scholars-incluidng the editors, Stanley Plumly, Linda Gregerson and Carl Phillips-grew out of a panel at the 2000 Associated Writing Programs conference, but the end result is far more engaging and rigorous than such a beginning might suggest. Rather than trying to cover lyric poetry's many hybrid permutations, the editors wisely narrow their focus to three primary ""modes""-the elegy, the love poem, and the ode. They then address four further categories, or ""lyric means,"" rooted in core poetic ""problems""-those of nature, beauty, people, and time. Approaching their subject from the shared perspective that ""lyric poetry is itself a kind of persuasion,"" and generously quoting from numerous poems along the way, the essayists draw on their respective areas of expertise to discuss what quickly becomes an impressive range of poets, including Sappho, Horace, Petrarch, Donne, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Millay, Stevens, Pavese, Bogan, Hass, Salamun and many others. Despite the writers' depth and breadth of knowledge, the essays are eminently readable, foregoing critical theory in favor of a deep engagement with poetics. Though an advanced poetry scholar might not find a lot of profoundly new arguments here, (s)he nonetheless might enjoy the essayists' close readings and carefully drawn connections. Other poetry readers should find the book wonderfully engaging, enlightening, and at times, lyrical.
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