Throughout these 23 review-essays, Bawer shows his love for poetry by attacking those who have allowed it, he says, ``to be turned into something that only poets read.'' Why poetry has become a literary stepchild is the subject of Bawer's thoughtful assessment of American poets from Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens to newer ones such as Dave Smith. Running through these critical commentaries is the theme that too many younger poets are caught up in romantic excess, that the influence of Allen Ginsberg and the Beats and the confessional self-destruction of Sylvia Plath have excused so much of the sloppy, informal and poured-out emotion of today's poets. Bawer is clearly puzzled by the attention given to many leading contemporary poets, but he also attacks poetry workshops, PBS's Voices and Visions series, literary interviews and critic Helen Vendler. There are times when one wonders just who or what Bawer does like. But he clearly cares about poetry, citing numerous examples to back up his opinions. He is on the side of the formalists and those for whom poetry is not a game of literary gossip. This book is an intelligent study by someone who has read and judged a great deal of poetry and criticism. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995 Release date: 05/01/1995 Genre: Fiction
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