The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry

Sven Birkerts, Author, Maria D. Guarnaschelli, Editor William Morrow & Company $22.95 (459p) ISBN 978-0-688-07861-4
If poetry is organically linked to the speech idiom of its timeand if popular idiom is molded by television and other mass mediathen how can the poet fathom the age without sounding arch, mannered or deliberately bland? That maddening question is posed here by Birkerts ( An Artificial Wilderness ), and answers provided by poets as diverse as Gary Snyder, Adrienne Rich and Robert Lowell resonate in these impassioned essays and reviews. Alert to the genuine, wary of pose and pretension, Birkerts guides us through the shoals and depths of contemporary verse as he spotlights a score of less well-known poets, among them Alice Fulton, Frank Bidart, Jorie Graham, Peter Klappert, Melissa Green. His close readings of Keats and Marianne Moore remind us why we still turn to their poetry. Turning to poets in translation, he looks at Rilke's secular cosmology, Tomas Transtromer's vision of life as a difficult mystery, Octavio Paz's haunting music born of his orientalism. This rich gathering of essays confirms Birkerts's stature as one of the most perceptive critics of our time. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1989
Release date: 02/01/1989
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