Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry / Edition 2

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In this new edition of Best Words, Best Order, Stephen Dobyns further explains the mystery of the poet's work. Through essays on memory and metaphor, pacing, and the intricacies of voice and tone, and thoughtful appreciations of Chekhov, Ritsos, Mandelstam, and Rilke, Dobyns guides readers and writers through poetry's mysterious twilight communiques. For this new second edition, Dobyns has added two new essays, one dealing with the idea of "beauty" in poetry and another dealing with the almost mystical way poets connect seemingly disparate elements in a single work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"These essays are wonderfully efficient litte machines, reproducing in the reader Dobyns's deep understanding of and affection for the work of such peers as Rilke, Mandelstan, and Chekhov." -- Library Journal

"Few writers are as versatile or prolific as Stephen Dobyns. . .Mr. Dobyns celebrates a plain-spoken poetry that is alert to structure and open to tension and surprise. He provides us with informed, resonant readings of contemporary poems. . ." --The New York Times Book Review

"...painstaking, admirable and enjoyable."--The Times Literary Supplement

Library Journal
Novelist, poet, and teacher Dobyns collects here 13 lectures in which he distinguishes between two kinds of poetry. The first is that of the French symbolists and their followers (Eliot, Pound, Stevens), who felt that "a poem was like a bright light" for the reader to bask in rather than understand. The second type of poem, and the one Dobyns himself favors, is "a small machine [made] out of words" that re-creates the poet's feelings "in another human being, any time, any place." By that standard these essays are wonderfully efficient little machines, reproducing in the reader Dobyns's deep understanding of and affection for the work of such peers as Rilke, Mandelstam, and Chekhov. The one indispensable essay, though, is the 79-page "Notes on Free Verse," an encyclopedic treatise notable for its historical sweep, erudition, and passion for the craft Dobyns himself practices so well. For literature collections.David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
Dobyns works against his title as all good poets must, teasing from Coleridge's transparency the intuitive mysteries of writing poetry and making these experiences articulate. His essays exhibit the same craft and clarity as his poetry and novels, resurrecting (thank God) the importance of the reader, technical questions of pacing, tone, voice, and the less easily negotiable terrain of metaphor and its ability to transmit emotional experience. Additionally, the volume liberally samples from the ideas and work of an impressive array of poets, including specific critical readings of Rilke, Mandelstam, Chekhov, Ritsos. Dobyns relies on personal reminisces to communicate his poetic priorities, making the essays ideal for working writers and students alike. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403961471
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 5/2/2003
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 670,445
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Dobyns is the author of eight volumes of poetry, among them Cemetery Nights and Velocities. He has also written 17 novels.

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Table of Contents

• Deceptions
• Metaphor and the Authenticating Act of Memory
• Writing the Reader's Life
• Notes on Free Verse
• Pacing: The Ways a Poem Moves
• The Function of Tone
• The Voices One Listens To
• The Traffic between Two Worlds
• Rilke's Growth as a Poet
• Mandelstam: The Poem as Event
• Chekhov's Sense of Writing as Seen through His Letters
• Ritsos and the Metaphysical Moment
• Cemetery Nights
• The Maker's Manipulation of Time
• The Passerby in the Birdless Street
• The Problem of Beauty and the Requirements of Art

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