The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2001

The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2001

by X. J. Kennedy
     
 

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

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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

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:
10/01/2002
Series:
Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Jack Foley
Kennedy's verse is wonderfully successful and a delight to read. His work makes us think: How wonderful rhyme and meter are—I was to try that too!

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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