Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry

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Overview


In Regions of Unlikeness Thomas Gardner explores the ways a number of quite different twentieth-century American poets, including Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, Robert Hass, Jorie Graham, and Michael Palmer, frame their work as taking place within, and being brought to life by, an acknowledgment of the limits of language. Gardner approaches their poetry in light of philosopher Stanley Cavell’s remarkably similar engagement with the issues of skepticism and linguistic finitude. The skeptic’s refusal to settle for anything less than perfect knowledge of the world, Cavell maintains, amounts to a refusal to accept the fact of human finitude. Gardner argues that both Cavell and the poets he discusses reject skepticism’s world-erasing conclusions but nonetheless honor the truth about the limits of knowledge that skepticism keeps alive. In calling attention to the limits of such acts as describing or remembering, the poets Gardner examines attempt to renew language by teasing a charged drama out of their inability to grasp with certainty.
 
Juxtaposed with Gardner’s readings of the work of the younger poets are his interviews with them. In many ways, these conversations are at the core of Gardner’s book, demonstrating the wide-ranging implications of the struggles and mappings enacted in the poems. The interviews are themselves examples of the charged intimacy Gardner deals with in his readings.
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Editorial Reviews

Boston Review

"By bringing [Stanley] Cavell's ideas to bear on contemporary poetry, Gardner all but guarantees Regions of Unlikeness an interested audience; indeed, the premise is brilliant."—Boston Review
Choice

"Gardner provides an interesting and informative appreciation of five poets: Elizabeth Bishop, John Ashbery, Robert Hass, Jorie Graham, and Michael Palmer. . . . Central to the book are extensive interviews with Hass, Graham, and Palmer. . . . Gardner is at his best when discussing Jorie Graham's work, which he sees as incandescent. Includes detailed notes and selected works cited. For large undergraduate and graduate poetry collections."—Choice
Willard Spiegelman
"I admire this work very much. . . . The inclusion of interviews with three of the selected poets strikes me as a brilliant stroke of judgment. . . . The poets become their own best spokespersons, and the book becomes a kind of critical collaboration, or . . . a 'conversation' in which critic and poet give the reader access to the very processes by which intuition becomes knowledge."

-Willard Spiegelman, author of Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art

Willard Spiegelman

“I admire this work very much. . . . The inclusion of interviews with three of the selected poets strikes me as a brilliant stroke of judgment. . . . The poets become their own best spokespersons, and the book becomes a kind of critical collaboration, or . . . a ‘conversation’ in which critic and poet give the reader access to the very processes by which intuition becomes knowledge.”—Willard Spiegelman, author of Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art
Booknews
Gardner (English, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State U.) explores how a number of quite different 20th-century American poets frame their work within an acknowledgment of the limits of language. He compares the similar engagement of philosopher Stanley Cavell with issues of skepticism and linguistic finitude. Both, he says, attempt to renew language by teasing a drama out of their inability to grasp with certainty. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803221765
  • Publisher: UNP - Nebraska
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Pages: 315
  • Product dimensions: 6.39 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author


Thomas Gardner, a professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, is the author of Discovering Ourselves in Whitman: The Contemporary American Long Poem and The Mime, Speaking, a book of poetry.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 Elizabeth Bishop's Fine, Torn Fish-Nets 32
2 John Ashbery's New Voice 73
3 Robert Hass and the Line's Tension 113
4 An Interview with Robert Hass 158
5 Jorie Graham's Incandescence 168
6 An Interview with Jorie Graham 214
7 Michael Palmer's Altered Words 238
8 An Interview with Michael Palmer 272
Notes 293
Selected Works Cited 307
Index 309
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