The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2001

Overview

The Lords of Misrule, X. J. Kennedy's seventh volume of poetry, exhibits his characteristic blend of wit, intellectual curiosity, and formal mastery. The sixty poems collected here explore a wide range of subjects: a scathing curse on a sneak-thief, a wry ballad of Henry James and his not-quite lover Constance Fenimore Woolson, an elegy for Allen Ginsberg, incisive views of contemporary Egypt, a serio-comic meditation on the relic of St. Teresa of Avila which Spain's General Franco kept at his bedside, and a ...

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Overview

The Lords of Misrule, X. J. Kennedy's seventh volume of poetry, exhibits his characteristic blend of wit, intellectual curiosity, and formal mastery. The sixty poems collected here explore a wide range of subjects: a scathing curse on a sneak-thief, a wry ballad of Henry James and his not-quite lover Constance Fenimore Woolson, an elegy for Allen Ginsberg, incisive views of contemporary Egypt, a serio-comic meditation on the relic of St. Teresa of Avila which Spain's General Franco kept at his bedside, and a response to the events of September 11. Like the controlled frenzy of medieval Christmas festivities presided over by the appointed Lords of Misrule, Kennedy's poems possess a chaotic humor and frenetic energy held within tight metrical bounds. In his latest collection, Kennedy confirms his reputation as one of America's most accomplished and engaging poets.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Southern Review - Jay Rogoff

For over forty years, techincal virtuoso X. J. Kennedy has entertained readers with tightly constructed formal poems in colloquial language, and he reasserts his formalist credentials in his latest collection, The Lords of Misrule... [Kennedy] makes us understand why our world drives us to song.

Hudson Review - R. S. Gwynn

The Lords of Misrule contains poems that successfully inhabit the narrow ledge halfway down from the frosty summit of Arnoldian high seriousness and halfway up from the balmy vale of outright light verse. They also inhabit diners, opera houses, traffic jams, motorcycle rallies, pizza parlors, Saturday morning police courts, and even the gallows of Villon's Paris.

Chronicles - Catharine Savage Brosman

[Kennedy] can be light and amusing, or tender and touching, or acerbic and cutting... The Lords of Misrule demonstrates convincingly his poetic breadth and vigor, and the depth of feeling that his verse can convey. The collection confirms his position as a preeminent voice in American poetry today.

Smartish Pace - Jason Gray

Kennedy is often cited as one of American poetry's premier practitioners of light and satirical verse, and here he doesn't disappoint... [however], despite the frivolity supposed by the book's title, and Kennedy's often employed humor, many of the poems are more interested in death and the loss or stoppage of time... in what is one of the best poems written about September 11th, Kennedy brings both his meditation on death and his breath of new life together.

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Wilmer Mills

Kennedy writes with contemporary sharpness and displays a mastery of tradition and technique.

Times Literary Supplement - N. S. Thompson

Some poets... form part of a historically small but robust band whose spirits never seem to flag in their prolonged observation of the human concourse. Such poets, being able to maintain a witty engagement with life in all its forms and in a variety of stances, strike us as perpetually young and remain consistently readable. X. J. Kennedy falls into this company... [ The Lords of Misrule] happily shows that a poet can enjoy a constant upward curve in both mastery of craft and crispness of expression... This rich and varied collection [was] evidently assembled with a great deal of thought for theme, variation and contrast.

Columbus Dispatch - Robert Flanagan

There is absolutely no reason to read the poetry of X.J. Kennedy unless you appreciate form, balance, intelligence, wit, grace and the English language. In The Lords of Misrule... he combines a respect for order with broad humor and a spiritual sensibility, managing to be serious but not somber, comical but not foolish.

New York Times Book Review - Eric McHenry

X. J. Kennedy belongs to that class of uncompromising formalists that includes Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, Donald Justice and W. D. Snodgrass... Widely regarded, and occasionally disregarded, as a practitioner of light verse... he serves his light with a healthy dose of darkness; his best work is a tug of war between levity and gravity.

Journal of Jersey Poets - Kenneth Hart

Philosophic and wry in their handling, here are poems on everything from deer ticks, police court, aspirin, cherry pie, Allen Ginsberg, airport bars, and homeless people in an Egyptian cemetery, to the most classic themes of love, death, nature, and history... In their jousting, funny, satiric moods, few readers will find in these pages a theme with which they cannot identify.

Hudson Review - Emily Grosholz

The poetry is mordant, funny, and even sometimes rather frightening; the poet, so much in control of his formal means.

Sewanee Review - Richard Moore

These are beautiful poems by one of the best poets we have.

Texas Review - Paul Ruffin

Well, here he goes again, America's finest formalist, with a simply delightful collection of new poems.

New England Review - Ghita Orth

Kennedy's 'wit' is not mere cleverness. Rather it combines accuracy of perception with the metaphoric imagination that, with his ability to juggle fixed forms, enlivens the best poems in this satisfying collection... In these poems we are connected—to the formal tradition, to the social and natural worlds in which we live, and to each other.

Southern Review
For over forty years, techincal virtuoso X. J. Kennedy has entertained readers with tightly constructed formal poems in colloquial language, and he reasserts his formalist credentials in his latest collection, The Lords of Misrule... [Kennedy] makes us understand why our world drives us to song.

— Jay Rogoff

Hudson Review
The poetry is mordant, funny, and even sometimes rather frightening; the poet, so much in control of his formal means.

— Emily Grosholz

Chronicles
[Kennedy] can be light and amusing, or tender and touching, or acerbic and cutting... The Lords of Misrule demonstrates convincingly his poetic breadth and vigor, and the depth of feeling that his verse can convey. The collection confirms his position as a preeminent voice in American poetry today.

— Catharine Savage Brosman

Smartish Pace
Kennedy is often cited as one of American poetry's premier practitioners of light and satirical verse, and here he doesn't disappoint... [however], despite the frivolity supposed by the book's title, and Kennedy's often employed humor, many of the poems are more interested in death and the loss or stoppage of time... in what is one of the best poems written about September 11th, Kennedy brings both his meditation on death and his breath of new life together.

— Jason Gray

Chattanooga Times Free Press
Kennedy writes with contemporary sharpness and displays a mastery of tradition and technique.

— Wilmer Mills

Times Literary Supplement
Some poets... form part of a historically small but robust band whose spirits never seem to flag in their prolonged observation of the human concourse. Such poets, being able to maintain a witty engagement with life in all its forms and in a variety of stances, strike us as perpetually young and remain consistently readable. X. J. Kennedy falls into this company... [ The Lords of Misrule] happily shows that a poet can enjoy a constant upward curve in both mastery of craft and crispness of expression... This rich and varied collection [was] evidently assembled with a great deal of thought for theme, variation and contrast.

— N. S. Thompson

Columbus Dispatch
There is absolutely no reason to read the poetry of X.J. Kennedy unless you appreciate form, balance, intelligence, wit, grace and the English language. In The Lords of Misrule... he combines a respect for order with broad humor and a spiritual sensibility, managing to be serious but not somber, comical but not foolish.

— Robert Flanagan

New York Times Book Review
X. J. Kennedy belongs to that class of uncompromising formalists that includes Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, Donald Justice and W. D. Snodgrass... Widely regarded, and occasionally disregarded, as a practitioner of light verse... he serves his light with a healthy dose of darkness; his best work is a tug of war between levity and gravity.

— Eric McHenry

Virginia Quarterly Review

Kennedy thrills in writing about the prurient sans prurience... these poems sometimes fall into astounding constellations.

Journal of Jersey Poets
Philosophic and wry in their handling, here are poems on everything from deer ticks, police court, aspirin, cherry pie, Allen Ginsberg, airport bars, and homeless people in an Egyptian cemetery, to the most classic themes of love, death, nature, and history... In their jousting, funny, satiric moods, few readers will find in these pages a theme with which they cannot identify.

— Kenneth Hart

Sewanee Review
These are beautiful poems by one of the best poets we have.

— Richard Moore

Texas Review
Well, here he goes again, America's finest formalist, with a simply delightful collection of new poems.

— Paul Ruffin

New England Review
Kennedy's 'wit' is not mere cleverness. Rather it combines accuracy of perception with the metaphoric imagination that, with his ability to juggle fixed forms, enlivens the best poems in this satisfying collection... In these poems we are connected—to the formal tradition, to the social and natural worlds in which we live, and to each other.

— Ghita Orth

Publishers Weekly
New England's master of light verse returns to familiarly sardonic territory in this, his seventh collection, which mixes dry wit and restrained verse-narrative with poems on surprisingly serious subjects. Among the latter: a mentally ill failed opera singer who roams a New Jersey town; the "crappy days" of 1950s patriarchy (and the aging men who often look back to them); and a "Ballad of [Constance] Fenimore Woolson and Henry James," describing the 19th century writers' Platonic romance (which James encouraged, then rejected) in the all-American rhythms of "Frankie and Johnny." Kennedy even closes the sometimes-somber volume with a clipped and saddened poem about September 11 (entitled "Sept. 12, 2002"). Devotees of the feuilletons and commentaries from which Kennedy made his name will certainly appreciate the volume's "Invocation," in which "sweet Meter" and "strict-lipped Stanza" "confine jubilation/ To tolerable order"; meter and stanza also guide Kennedy's tribute to Allen Ginsberg, in many ways Kennedy's polar opposite, whose "Glee and sweetness, freaky light" give the volume its name. Though less original (and less often laugh-out-loud funny) than its clear precedents in the midcentury poetry of George Starbuck or John Updike, Kennedy's work remains cultured, likable and witty. (Dec.) Forecast: Despite a shelf of awards for his own poetry (the Lamont Prize for 1961's Nude Descending a Staircase, the Los Angeles Times Prize for 1985's Cross Ties) Kennedy's reputation still rests on his textbooks, including An Introduction to Poetry, co-written with new NEA president Dana Gioia. Kennedy's associations with New Formalism in general, and Gioia in particular, should bring in seasoned admirers. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801871689
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Series: Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

X. J. Kennedy was born in Dover, New Jersey, in 1929. After teaching English at the University of Michigan, the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now UNC-Greensboro), and Tufts University, he became a full-time writer in 1978. He has published six other collections of poetry, including Nude Descending a Staircase, which won the 1961 Academy of American Poets Lamont Prize; Cross Ties, awarded the 1985 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Dark Horses, which was published by Johns Hopkins in 1992. He has also written eighteen children's books, including Exploding Gravy (2002), and has coauthored several textbooks, including An Introduction to Poetry with Dana Gioia, now in its tenth edition. His numerous honors include the Aiken Taylor Award for Lifetime Achievement in Modern American Poetry, Guggenheim and National Arts Council fellowships, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Golden Rose of the New England Poetry Club, the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse, and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. He lives with his wife, Dorothy, in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Invocation 1
"The Purpose of Time Is to Prevent Everything from Happening at Once" 5
A Snapshot Rediscovered 6
Jimmy Harlow 7
Naomi Trimmer 8
Five-and-Dime, Late Thirties 10
Sailors with the Clap 12
Deer Ticks 13
Miss Olive Leahy's Rooms & Cigar Divan 14
Salute Sweet Deceptions 15
For Allen Ginsberg 16
Visit 17
Death of a First Child 19
Epitaph Proposed for the Headstone of S. R. Quiett 21
Fat Cats in Egypt 22
The Homeless in Cairo Cemetery 22
Thebes: In the Robber Village 22
Mustafa Ferrari 23
Close Call 26
Street Moths 27
Others 28
Terminals 29
In the Holding Lounge at Frankfurt Airport 30
Police Court Saturday Morning 31
Decor 32
Covering the Massacre 33
The Ballad of Fenimore Woolson and Henry James 37
Heard through the Walls of the Racetrack Glen Motel 43
Afterward 44
The Blessing of the Bikes 45
A Scandal in the Suburbs 49
Pileup 50
Then and Now 52
Commuter 53
Mr. Longfellow's Iron Pen 54
Obscenity 55
Ballade of the Hanged 58
The Spoke 60
A Beard of Bees 63
A Curse on a Thief 64
On Song 66
Taking Aspirin 67
Sharing the Score 68
Daughter Like a Pendant 69
Pie 70
Lyric 71
To His Lover, That She Be Not Overdressed 72
Dusk Decides to Settle in Short Hills 73
Shriveled Meditation 74
Horny Man's Song 75
Perplexities 76
Best Intentions 77
In the Airport Bar 78
Ponce de Leon 79
Harriet 80
Meditation in the Bedroom of General Francisco Franco 81
A Mobile 82
Christmas Show at the Planetarium 83
Maples in January 84
In Defense of New England 85
Obdurate Snow 86
Pacifier 87
September Twelfth, 2001 88
Notes 89
Acknowledgments 91
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