In this deeply philosophical and highly inventive new collection, John Hollander, the distinguished author of numerous books of poetry, offers profound yet playful meditations on the reflective mind and on the words with which we come to know the world. In forms as varied as sonnets, songs, and ancient odes, he muses over the ways we use (and misuse) language as “we grasp the world by ear, by heart, by head / And keep it in a soft ...
In this deeply philosophical and highly inventive new collection, John Hollander, the distinguished author of numerous books of poetry, offers profound yet playful meditations on the reflective mind and on the words with which we come to know the world. In forms as varied as sonnets, songs, and ancient odes, he muses over the ways we use (and misuse) language as “we grasp the world by ear, by heart, by head / And keep it in a soft continuingness.”
Here, too, are striking verses about the passage of time as recorded by the movement of light and shadow across a surface, whether it be the face of a clock or the enclosed walls of a Hopper painting. Throughout, Hollander delights us with mirrors, palindromes, and strange and surprising reversals that keep the mind ever alert with the challenge “to make words be themselves, taking time out / From all the daily work of meaning, to / Make picture puzzles of what they’re about.”
Donna Seaman has written of John Hollander, “His wise and robustly complex poems span the mind like stone aqueducts or canyon-crossing railroad bridges—awesome works of knowledge and craft, art and devotion.” In this exciting new volume, Hollander shows once again the reach of his poetic imagination.
The better poems share this quality of odd tangents pursued to extremes, but explore abstractions like time and language in ways that give them substance. He's for readers who like poems about ideas, and not necessarily the experiences that led to them. — Matthew Flamm
"We play by ear but learn the words by heart": so explains the first of the many playfully intellectual poems in this strong 18th collection from the much-honored, Yale-based poet and critic. Hollander's considerable reputation rests in part on his wide, often whimsical array of forms, and this volume (more than its recent predecessors) excels in formal agility: blank verse, Sapphics, serial haiku and faithful adaptations from Horace's Latin wheel and spin from comic exclamations (like "pow!" and "blort!") through learned puns, philosophical disquisitions and even "grave accentuations cut in the rind of the earth." Some of the most ambitious poems here describe paintings, while others meditate more abstractly on the relations between seeing and listening, or between writing and visual art. More casual poems address, or remember, particular literary friends (some of them famous): "On a Stanza of H. Leyvick" moves "from the midcentury Village back to the New/ York of the Yiddish poets," while "From a Palace Diary" brings to new heights the poet's longstanding devotion to cats. Recalling both Wallace Stevens and W.H. Auden, Hollander (Tesserae, etc.) combines a reader-friendly alertness with intellectual sophistication; his poems try "to make words be themselves," "to/ Make pictures puzzles of what they're about," and in doing so develop an instantly recognizable take on "the mind's/ Complicating, fragile reflectiveness." (May) Forecast: Hollander's stack of awards includes a MacArthur "genius" grant and a Bollingen Prize, and he remains a preeminent literary scholar: more accessible, more fun and more Audenesque than Figurehead (1999), this book should surpass the attention that volume received. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This 17th collection by the accomplished prosodist and MacArthur Fellow offers the expected cornucopia of sonnets, villanelles, Horatian odes, and erudite wordplay ("the/ Contest between what/ Longs most for lastingness and what will last longest"), showcasing Hollander's polished, if somewhat starchy, facility with British and European forms. His is an unabashedly academic poetry, where classical allusions and etymological in-jokes prance among cheeky aphorisms in strict time ("Now is then as then will be"). When the subject is light or occasional (as in "Commemorative Verses," a trinket for Yale alumni), the poet's tongue is loath to leave the confines of his cheek, and his tone borders on the supercilious. But the first third of this work gives us Hollander at his strongest, exhibiting a mastery of metaphor and music ("soft/ shadows that give shape/to what the low sound/of now has come to mean") joined with surprising depth and insight. The title poem in particular, whose primary image is "That splendid modern instrument of truth:/ Plateglass," works through the philosophical implications of its conceit with remarkable consistency and grace. For all poetry collections.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
John Hollander is the author of seventeen previous 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 has written 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 has taught at Connecticut College and Yale, and was a professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is currently Sterling Professor emeritus of English at Yale. In 1990 he received a MacArthur Fellowship .