Poet's Choice

Edward Hirsch, Author . Harcourt $25 (432p) ISBN 978-0-15-101356-2

Hirsch's follow-up to his bestselling, NBCC award-winning How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry collects two years' worth of his engaging weekly essay-lettres from the Washington Post Book World . Such a collection is inevitably a miscellany as it ranges from biographic sketches and personal portraits to topical subjects, reviews of new books and eulogies for the recently deceased. The 20th-century giants Yeats, Rilke and Neruda, who served as touchstones in How to Read a Poem , appear alongside such contemporary Americans as Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder and Dorothea Tanning, and newcomers from Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and Asia. Hirsch also casts back to ancient traditions, although there's a gap between these and modern poets that is filled only occasionally by the likes of the rediscovered John Clare and Giuseppe Belli. Taking over the column early in 2002, Hirsch writes, he felt the burden of discussing poetry in the cultural climate of post-9/11 America. Old themes of grief and loss gain new weight as Hirsch discusses Wallace Stevens's and Mark Strand's approaches and Tom Sleigh's oblique refashioning of Greek and Sumerian verse in "New York American Spell, 2001." Eclectic and idiosyncratic, Hirsch's choices are unified by astute excerpting and keen commentary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/27/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
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Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-15-603267-4
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