Poems of J. V. Cunningham

Overview


The lifework in verse of one of the century's finest and liveliest American poets, this collection of the poems of J. V. Cunningham (1911-85) documents the poet's development from his early days as an experimental modernist during the Depression to his emergence as the master of the classical “plain style” -- distinguished by its wit, feeling, and subtlety.

Often identified with the epigram -- a genre in which he excelled as distinctively as Jonson, Herrick, and Landor -- ...

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Overview


The lifework in verse of one of the century's finest and liveliest American poets, this collection of the poems of J. V. Cunningham (1911-85) documents the poet's development from his early days as an experimental modernist during the Depression to his emergence as the master of the classical “plain style” -- distinguished by its wit, feeling, and subtlety.

Often identified with the epigram -- a genre in which he excelled as distinctively as Jonson, Herrick, and Landor -- Cunningham also wrote in a wide range of other poetic forms and was a remarkable translator. This collection, designed to show the poet's range and skill, incorporates the materials of his 1971 Collected Poems and Epigrams and restores their original arrangement. It also adds many of his later poems and translations and some uncollected pieces from his periodicals.

Timothy Steele's notes and introduction assist in re-establishing Cunningham's position as a twentieth-century original, a poet who is remembered equally for emotional power and stylistic purity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
James Vincent Cunningham (1911-1985) is often missing from the pantheon of poet-critics who were active in the 1940s and '50s. This edition restores to us his classical erudition and old-school wit, which he fused in justly acclaimed epigrams. Not only did he revive this previously exhausted form, he made it significantoften hilariouslyduring a time that was rife with crusty formalist gibberish and antiquarianism: "God is love. Then by conversion/ Love is God, and sex conversion." He could be serious, too, and in his translations and short lyrics occasionally came close to the classical sublime: "I in their cold sky see/ Neither Venus not Mars;/ It is the past that cast the stars/ That guide me now." Steele, a poet and professor at California State University, does a fine job, by way of introduction and critical commentary in aiding our "appreciation of Cunningham's aims and achievements" and telling the story of his life, including his turbulent relations with the critic Yvor Winters. While there's lots of doggerel here, there's enough plain-spoken grace to merit this volume's careful editorial attention and presentation: "Simplicity assuages/ With grace the damaged heart,/ So would I in these pages/ If will were art." (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804009980
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 253
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author


Timothy Steele’s previous collections of poetry include The Color Wheel and Sapphics and Uncertainties: Poems 1970–1986. He has also published two widely discussed works of literary criticism, Missing Measures: Modern Poetry and the Revolt against Meter and All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and Versification. He is a professor of English at California State University, Los Angeles. For more information, visit his website.
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