The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If poetry is organically linked to the speech idiom of its timeand if popular idiom is molded by television and other mass mediathen how can the poet fathom the age without sounding arch, mannered or deliberately bland? That maddening question is posed here by Birkerts ( An Artificial Wilderness ), and answers provided by poets as diverse as Gary Snyder, Adrienne Rich and Robert Lowell resonate in these impassioned essays and reviews. Alert to the genuine, wary of pose and pretension, Birkerts guides us through the shoals and depths of contemporary verse as he spotlights a score of less well-known poets, among them Alice Fulton, Frank Bidart, Jorie Graham, Peter Klappert, Melissa Green. His close readings of Keats and Marianne Moore remind us why we still turn to their poetry. Turning to poets in translation, he looks at Rilke's secular cosmology, Tomas Transtromer's vision of life as a difficult mystery, Octavio Paz's haunting music born of his orientalism. This rich gathering of essays confirms Birkerts's stature as one of the most perceptive critics of our time. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In more than 30 essays of both a theoretical and practical nature, Birkerts takes a panoramic view of contemporary poetry and poetics. The title alludes to a passage from Shelley's A Defense of Poetry , which considers the poet's special use of language. This allusion is important, for Birkerts argues that because the poet is ``the most intent and concentrated user of language,'' he or she occupies a privileged position--not socially but existentially. Many will disagree with the emphasis on sound over sense, but Birkerts is always provocative and engaging. His sensitivity to the nuances of language makes this collection, unlike so many others, worth reading. Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries strong in literature.-- Donald P. Kaczvinsky, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688078614
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/1989
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 456

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