Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt

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Overview

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.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Los Angeles Times - Merle Rubin

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.

The Wall Street Journal - Ben Downing

This book is a welcome reminder of the unique intimacy afforded by reading another person's letters.

The Berkshire Eagle - Michelle Gillett

Clampitt's letters... Offer an expansive view - of her generous spirit, her exceptional mind.

Christian Science Monitor - Elizabeth Lund

[Readers] get to see Clampitt's life... The view is as surprising as her writing style, which is clear, vivid and engaging.

ToddSwift.BlogSpot.com - Todd Swift

In short, she is heroic. The Letters are very moving.

Sunday Times - Martin Rubin

Vibrant, attractive, life affirming letters... In this slim collection of letters, is a wonderful sense of the delightful woman.

Dallas Morning News - Isabel Nathaniel

Here is what e-mail has no patience for: grace, wit, wonder, embellishment, asides, details and real vocabulary.

Boston Sunday Globe - Megan Marshall

Women can do anything. Or, at least, some women's life stories encourage us to believe... Clampitt's is one of them.

The New Criterion - Anthony Cuda

Spiegelman's impeccable and (as only the best are) subtle editorial decisions make this volume a rare pleasure.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Karl Kirchwey

He has performed an important service by assembling this selection.

Verse - David Galef

Posterity shimmers in these refractions of a variegated life.

Georgia Review - Judith Kitchen

From the first page of Love, Amy, an engaging voice emerges: curious, quirky, opinionated, rueful, celebratory... Spiegleman has made judicious selections.

Kenyon Review - Sam Pickering

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.

Choice

This is a charming record of a serious, essentially private life... Recommended.

The Los Angeles Times
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.

— Merle Rubin

The Wall Street Journal
This book is a welcome reminder of the unique intimacy afforded by reading another person's letters.

— Ben Downing

The Berkshire Eagle
Clampitt's letters... Offer an expansive view - of her generous spirit, her exceptional mind.

— Michelle Gillett

New Yorker

Her letters are suffused with an inexorable optimism.

Christian Science Monitor
[Readers] get to see Clampitt's life... The view is as surprising as her writing style, which is clear, vivid and engaging.

— Elizabeth Lund

ToddSwift.BlogSpot.com
In short, she is heroic. The Letters are very moving.

— Todd Swift

Sunday Times
Vibrant, attractive, life affirming letters... In this slim collection of letters, is a wonderful sense of the delightful woman.

— Martin Rubin

Dallas Morning News
Here is what e-mail has no patience for: grace, wit, wonder, embellishment, asides, details and real vocabulary.

— Isabel Nathaniel

Boston Sunday Globe
Women can do anything. Or, at least, some women's life stories encourage us to believe... Clampitt's is one of them.

— Megan Marshall

Choice

This is a charming record of a serious, essentially private life... Recommended.

The New Criterion
The smooth, lucid prose of her letters always reminds us that the verbal athlecticism of her verse... is the work of a highly conscious, purposeful artisan.

— Anthony Cuda

New Criterion
Spiegelman's impeccable and (as only the best are) subtle editorial decisions make this volume a rare pleasure.

— Anthony Cuda

London Review of Books

This collection shows how she applied in life the moral inquisitiveness and artistic rigour that makes her poetry so remarkable.

Philadelphia Inquirer
He has performed an important service by assembling this selection.

— Karl Kirchwey

American Literature

Clampitt's letters, which reveal her sense of literary vocation... are infused with the kind of imagination filled her poetry.

Verse
Posterity shimmers in these refractions of a variegated life.

— David Galef

Georgia Review
From the first page of Love, Amy, an engaging voice emerges: curious, quirky, opinionated, rueful, celebratory... Spiegleman has made judicious selections.

— Judith Kitchen

The New Yorker
Composed over a forty-four year period, Clampitt’s letters are written in a markedly different voice from that of her intricate, highly learned poems. Here we get her recipe for granola, her thoughts on proper attire for Manhattan parties (“Being underdressed is the best way of keeping one’s perspective”), and her complaints about literary types (“miserable”) and “Paradise Lost” (“dull and pompous”). Clampitt achieved recognition for her writing late in life, and it is fascinating to learn of the many things she was doing before then, such as getting jailed for participating in political protests. Her letters are suffused with an inexorable optimism, devoid of any tinge of writerly melancholy or self-pity. At the age of thirty-three, Clampitt wrote to her youngest brother, “Why are people so afraid of being enthusiastic?”
Library Journal
Collections of literary letters often bemoan the loss of epistolary form. These missives by American poet Clampitt (1920-94) will remind readers who have long since read a letter what a vivid sense of time and place a well-written one can evoke. Clampitt's literary success was unconventional by most contemporary standards. After leaving rural Iowa as a young woman and spending almost 40 years in Manhattan, she finally published The Kingfisher, her first collection of poetry, at the age of 63 and secured her literary reputation. For the remaining 11 years of her life, she continued to publish to much acclaim poems that dealt with religious, political, spiritual, and artistic truths. Prior to her ascent, however, she worked at her craft, and her epistolary conversations with friends, presented here by Spiegelman (English, Southern Methodist Univ.; The Way Things Look Each Day: How Poets See the World) illustrate the way a poet's mind might search for the perfect detail to form and effectively convey a thought. Clampitt's letters will remind scholars and students what life was like for a writer before MFA programs were so commonplace. Lively and accessible, thoughtful and entertaining, Love, Amy is recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries with large poetry collections.-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231132879
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/27/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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. 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.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

The Letters of Amy ClampittIndex

Columbia University Press

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