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The Art of Attention: A Poet's Eye

Overview

The Art Of series is a new series of brief books by contemporary writers on important craft issues. Each book investigates an element of the craft of fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry by discussing works by authors past and present. The books in the Art Of series are not strictly manuals, but serve readers and writers by illuminating aspects of the craft of writing that people think they already know but don't really know.

Donald Revell argues passionately for the ...

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Overview

The Art Of series is a new series of brief books by contemporary writers on important craft issues. Each book investigates an element of the craft of fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry by discussing works by authors past and present. The books in the Art Of series are not strictly manuals, but serve readers and writers by illuminating aspects of the craft of writing that people think they already know but don't really know.

Donald Revell argues passionately for the transformation that imaginative experience elicits through poetry. "The art of poetry is not about the acquisition of wiles or the deployment of strategies," Revell writes. "Beginning in the senses, imagination senses farther, senses more." Using examples from his own poetry and translations and from Blake and Thoreau to Ronald Johnson and John Ashbery, Revell's The Art of Attention: A Poet's Eye takes the writer beyond the workshop and into the world of vision.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Art Of series is meant to restore criticism as an art, with writers examining features of their craft in lively and colorful prose." —Charles Baxter
Publishers Weekly

This short and wonderful second book of prose from poet Revell (A Thief of Strings) begins as an essay on luminous mystical vision and ends as a poetic autobiography, explaining how the poet got from the bitter, involuted verse of his first books to his pellucid, delighted and delightful recent work. In between, Revell argues that poets should translate, with examples from Ezra Pound and Revell's own engagement with Guillaume Apollinaire; he also argues that familiar ideas about imagination, originality, craft and revision have the true poetic process exactly backwards. True poetry, for Revell as for his frequent model Thoreau, flows from openness to whatever awaits us outside the self. That openness is for Revell finally religious (in his case, Christian): "it is simply natural," he maintains, "that plain attention is a piety and that the unaggressive articulation of attention in poems may be a form of prayer, an instance of worship." This compact book (part of Graywolf's new Art Of series on the craft of writing) seems designed in part for poetry workshops, but Revell's unusual take makes this as much a warmhearted essay on metaphysics as a guidebook, which is likely to make any poetry lover stop and pay attention. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Think of subtext in fiction as water; its characters, swimmers on the surface. Like water, subtext is everywhere, ubiquitous and buoyant, darker in its depths, the stuff of immersion. The beauty of Baxter's (The Feast of Love) inaugural entry in Graywolf's new "Art of" series, which draws on examples in literature to instruct on the writing craft, is that it doesn't assume to try and capture the whole of subtext. What book could? Instead, it focuses on very specific qualities composing it: the art of staging in a story, the importance of inflection in dialog, the ambiguity of motivation. To make the often translucent substance more visible, Baxter highlights excerpts from a wide range of fiction, from the contemporaneous and familiar to the foreign and esoteric.It is the watched-the attended to-world of which poetry is made. That is the premise of Revell's (Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems) entry in the series. It is the rapt attention of the poet that can elevate a poem to a position of timelessness, where the poem is always happening, always present, and the reader always cares. Revell defines what it means to be fully attentive, describes the consequences of such a state, and explains how poets can renew their own lapsed attentions through the art of translation. In his final chapter, he surveys his own body of work to show how the way in which he has attended to the world has changed over time. Baxter's book will help readers read more creatively and writers to float their stories; both his and Revell's books are highly recommended for all academic libraries.
—Maria Kochis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974749
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 7/24/2007
  • Series: Art of... Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 638,900
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.01 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

DONALD REVELL is the author of ten poetry collections, including Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems and My Mojave, which won the Lenore Marshall Prize. He teaches at the University of Utah, and lives in the desert south of Las Vegas.

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