Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampittby Amy Clampitt
This extraordinary collection of letters sheds light on one of the most important postwar American poets and on a creative woman's life from the 1950s onward. Amy Clampitt was an American original, a literary woman from a Quaker family in rural Iowa who came to New York after college and lived in Manhattan for almost forty years before she found success (or before
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This extraordinary collection of letters sheds light on one of the most important postwar American poets and on a creative woman's life from the 1950s onward. Amy Clampitt was an American original, a literary woman from a Quaker family in rural Iowa who came to New York after college and lived in Manhattan for almost forty years before she found success (or before it found her) at the age of 63 with the publication of The Kingfisher. Her letters from 1950 until her death in 1994 are a testimony to her fiercely independent spirit and her quest for various kinds of truth-religious, spiritual, political, and artistic.
Written in clear, limpid prose, Clampitt's letters illuminate the habits of imagination she would later use to such effect in her poetry. She offers, with wit and intelligence, an intimate and personal portrait of life as an independent woman recently arrived in New York City. She recounts her struggle to find a place for herself in the world of literature as well as the excitement of living in Manhattan. In other letters she describes a religious conversion (and then a gradual religious disillusionment) and her work as a political activist. Clampitt also reveals her passionate interest in and fascination with the world around her. She conveys her delight in a variety of day-to-day experiences and sights, reporting on trips to Europe, the books she has read, and her walks in nature.
After struggling as a novelist, Clampitt turned to poetry in her fifties and was eventually published in the New Yorker. In the last decade of her life she appeared like a meteor on the national literary scene, lionized and honored. In letters to Helen Vendler, Mary Jo Salter, and others, she discusses her poetry as well as her surprise at her newfound success and the long overdue satisfaction she obviously felt, along with gratitude, for her recognition.
In giving us these frank, unpretentious, immensely revelatory letters, Love, Amy enables us to learn more about the remarkable woman who created a splendid body of poetry more likely than many others to endure.
This book is a welcome reminder of the unique intimacy afforded by reading another person's letters.
Clampitt's letters... Offer an expansive view - of her generous spirit, her exceptional mind.
[Readers] get to see Clampitt's life... The view is as surprising as her writing style, which is clear, vivid and engaging.
In short, she is heroic. The Letters are very moving.
Vibrant, attractive, life affirming letters... In this slim collection of letters, is a wonderful sense of the delightful woman.
Here is what e-mail has no patience for: grace, wit, wonder, embellishment, asides, details and real vocabulary.
Women can do anything. Or, at least, some women's life stories encourage us to believe... Clampitt's is one of them.
Spiegelman's impeccable and (as only the best are) subtle editorial decisions make this volume a rare pleasure.
He has performed an important service by assembling this selection.
Posterity shimmers in these refractions of a variegated life.
From the first page of Love, Amy, an engaging voice emerges: curious, quirky, opinionated, rueful, celebratory... Spiegleman has made judicious selections.
What a fine book Willard Spiegelman has given readers, a book that will make people read Amy Clampitt's poetry and appreciate the poetry of her life.
This is a charming record of a serious, essentially private life... Recommended.
Her letters are suffused with an inexorable optimism.
This collection shows how she applied in life the moral inquisitiveness and artistic rigour that makes her poetry so remarkable.
Clampitt's letters, which reveal her sense of literary vocation... are infused with the kind of imagination filled her poetry.
- Columbia University Press
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What People are saying about this
Amy Clampitt, a major American poet, was a marvelous letter-writer. Spiegelman has edited her letters with skill and devotion. The book will be permanently important for readers and students of the best American poetry.
Here is the second half of the twentieth century, as revealed to the moral eye and aesthetic sensibility of poet Amy Clampitt. And here is an exemplary life, an examined life; we get a full account of Clampitt's experience as a Midwesterner transplanted to New York City, her romantic affairs, her political commitments, her life choices. We follow her amazing range and depth of reading and her aspirations to become a novelist. And in the sparkling details of travels, the endless bus rides, the reflections on 19th century writers, the observations of place, we find the seeds of her poems. Willard Spiegelman's introduction offers just the light touch needed to launch us into this compelling narrative of a writer's life.
Like the steam locomotive in its time, the age of letter writing may be passing. How fortunate, then, to hear from Amy Clampitt! The letters of good poets have a special interest, and hers are remarkably vivid. It is impossible to predict where her attention will alight nexta chickadee, the Unicorn tapestry, the workings of grace, a bowl of raspberries, the economy of love and solitude, a Bach fugueeach and everything described with a passionate curiosity, a palpable sympathy, and a shining moral poise. In the half-century of letters collected here, Clampitt offers us a whole world recreated in a poet's extraordinary sensibility and style. This book is a treasure.
Meet the Author
Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University. The author of four books, most recently How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry; he writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal and is editor-in-chief of The Southwest Review.
Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University. The author of four books, most recently How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry; he writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal and is editor-in-chief of The Southwest Review. The author would like us to include his photograph on the back cover. He submitted it for the hard cover but we neglected to put it on the flap then.
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