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School Library Journal
Kirsch, a prize-winning poet (The Thousand Wells), a widely published author (Wounded Surgeon), and a critic for the New York Sun, cuts to the heart of modernism's poetic tradition with 26 essays that mitigate a cacophony of fashionableness in contemporary poetry and its criticism. Ten years in the writing, this book explores and analyzes the work of 23 leading contemporary poets who represent the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st century. As poet exemplars, Matthew Arnold and T.S. Eliot (The Waste Land) carry Kirsch's pursuit of the vital in modern poetry within the heart of his subject's works. The result is a disambiguation of essential from inessential elements in contemporary poetry and within a range of its interpretations. We are not left bereft. As such, one essay features the work of four young poets who are "doing some of the most moving and vital writing of their poetic generation." His appraisal, rigorously bold and provocative, strips modern poetic tradition to its ultimate predicament: "to surrender to complexity" an onerous feat of ironic simplicity. A discerning critique recommended for academic libraries, particularly those with strong literature collections.
—Katharine A. Webb Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information