Like the poems they discuss, the best of these essays have strong, even quirky viewpoints and plenty of rhetorical power. The Columbia History of American Poetry interrogates the poetic tradition of the United States and dismantles it in a manner that encourages readers to reassemble that tradition in new and provocative ways.
These 31 essays by various experts in the field interrogate, dismantle, and ultimately reassemble the history of poetry in the United States, from the work of the slave George Moses Horton, who earned money for his freedom by ghostwriting love poems for romantic if uninspired college students, to the writings of Beat, Black Arts, and Marxist-oriented Language Poets of today. The great figures of the past--Whitman, Poe, Eliot, and so on--still loom, yet each time we are made to see them in some new way. Emily Dickinson, for example, comes across here as a cunning, ambitious poet rather than a sick or fragile one. The most eye-opening of these essays is the one by Dana Gioia on the Longfellow whom everyone thinks they have forgotten, even though they quote him whenever they say ``ships that pass in the night'' or ``the patter of little feet.'' An essential volume that shows how poetry intersects with our lives and vice versa.-- David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
YA-Each of these massive volumes has essays on various aspects of poetry, arranged chronologically within each subdivision, e.g., Old English poetry, Scottish poetry, African American or women poets. The readability is uneven, but each essay is completely self-contained, and as such, provides comprehensive coverage of each nation's poetry. Every attempt has been made to include current thought and movements, while many new perspectives on older movements, sometimes previously ignored or thought irrelevant, have been explicated, e.g., English ballads or American confessional poetry. Helpful starting points for more comprehensive studies of individual movements or poets.
Distinguished poet, novelist, and critic Parini assembled a group of world-class poets and critics to provide 31 illuminating original essays covering the entire scope of American poetry from Puritan times to the present, including Native American and African American perspectives. Among the contributors/contributions are Dana Gioia on Longfellow, Cynthia Griffin Wolff on Emily Dickinson, Donald Pease on Whitman, Helen Vendler on Wallace Stevens, Arnold Rampersand on the Harlem Renaissance, Ann Charters on the Beats, and Edward Hisch on Philip Levine and Charles Wright. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)