Figurehead: And Other Poems

Figurehead: And Other Poems

by John Hollander
     
 

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In a major review in The New Republic of John Hollander's two earlier books, Tesserae and Selected Poetry (both 1993), Vernon Shetley said, "John Hollander's poetry has shown a visionary power just often enough to secure him a place as one of the major figures of our moment."

Figurehead, a lively, varied, and technically dazzling

Overview

In a major review in The New Republic of John Hollander's two earlier books, Tesserae and Selected Poetry (both 1993), Vernon Shetley said, "John Hollander's poetry has shown a visionary power just often enough to secure him a place as one of the major figures of our moment."

Figurehead, a lively, varied, and technically dazzling book, confirms the statement made by Henry Taylor in the Washington Times: "John Hollander revels in technical challenges of unusual severity and complexity, yet most of his poems also have the emotional heft of something worth pausing over and remembering."

One of the most gifted of W. H. Auden's choices for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, Hollander has pursued the wide range and metrical brilliance of Auden's own poetry, so that this new book exhibits both a large compass of subject matter (from philosophical matters to personal narrative) and, as usual, some astonishing meditations on paintings—here, by Charles Sheeler, Rene Magritte, and Edward Hopper. By turns witty, touching, profound, mocking, ingenious, and always clever, Hollander's poems are a joy for the reader.

He is a modern master.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Busy busy busy" as the spinners of "Las Hilanderas," the poems in Hollander's complex 17th collection (following 1993's Tesserae) toil and trouble over the work of representation. With his nose habitually close to the book, the professorial poet and critic (The Gazer's Spirit; Rhyme's Reason; etc.) tries on a number of metrical and tropic hats to make this book a manual of the craft. Identifying with "the spider/ Spinning out of its own guts," Hollander's work takes its external structure from its author's internal composition. No wonder then that strains and forms from the Old Testament to Browning to James Merrill make their way into this web. Hollander's scholarship is everywhere in evidence, as is his playfulness. In the Swinburnian "A Fragment Twice Repaired," "JH" (as he names himself) gives voice to the torn papyrus that's all we have of the Tenth Muse and corrects the errors wrecked on text by "Eras of eros." Punning and teasing--nearly a nuisance in "Variations on a Tabletop"--the poet teaches his readers a lesson. There is about these poems the whiff of mortality. Asserting that "There's no reaching through any final curtain/ With some last work, adding a participle," Hollander warns of the limits of language and its inability to prevent the dust from turning back to dust. (Mar.) FYI: Hollander's A Crackling of Thorns won the 1958 Yale Younger Poets Series Prize. He is Sterling Professor of English at Yale.
Library Journal
Witty and highly interactive, these new poems in Hollander's 17th book of poetry recall the sumptuously inventive and playful work in two of his earlier books, Types of Shape (1969; Yale Univ., 1991. reprint) and Reflections on Espionage (LJ 4/15/76). All kinds of punning, visual and verbal, abound here, underscoring Hollander's theme of "double-dealings/ With ourselves." There is a long poem about hyper-realist Charles Sheeler's "The Artist Looks at Nature" (1943)--a poem about a painting that is itself about painting. Hollander even treats us to a retelling of Browning's "My Last Duchess." He delights in all kinds of rhymes and slant rhymes in the manner of Lewis Carroll or Gerard Manley Hopkins, like this sequence in "Getting from Here to There": "dawn, darn, dark, dirk, disk, dusk." Every poem is a "modeled fable/ of something occurring in the mind." Required for all larger collections.--Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, IL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375704338
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/15/2000
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
6.11(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.39(d)

Read an Excerpt

"So Red"

Blossoms in the late
October light, of such a saturated red:

what can flower now?
only the now awakened dark and dull maroon—

like the unburnished metal of copper beeches shadowing itself—

of midsummer and spring burning the japanese maple's dying leaves

have fired the bursting into astonished color of the very self

of lateness, lastness which itself can never last longer than the few

moments—in this case
October days—it takes to make itself intense in,

to put forth something of light that had either been waiting all along

to reveal itself or more likely, escaping its dead body of

leaf. It hits the road with a visual halloo as of a bright scarf

or a letting of arterial blood in a high ceremony—

annual, but so loud this year—of impatience and acknowledgement.

Meet the Author

JOHN HOLLANDER is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry. His first, A Crackling of Thorns, was chosen by W. H. Auden as the 1958 volume in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He wrote eight books of criticism, including the award-winning Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse and The Work of Poetry, and edited or coedited twenty-two collections, among them The Oxford Anthology of English Literature, American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, and (with Anthony Hecht, with whom he shared the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1983) Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls.

Mr. Hollander attended Columbia and Indiana Universities and was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows of Harvard University. He taught at Connecticut College and Yale, and was a professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. In 1990 he received a MacArthur Fellowship. He died in August 2013.

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