The Wesleyan Tradition: Four Decades of American Poetry / Edition 1

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Since issuing its first volumes in 1959, the Wesleyan poetry program has challenged the reigning aesthetic of the time and profoundly influenced the development of American poetry. One of the country’s oldest programs, its greatest achievement has been the publication of early works by yet undiscovered poetry who have since become major awarded Pulitzer and Bollingen prizes, National Book Awards, and many other honors. At a time when other programs are being phased out, Wesleyan takes this opportunity to celebrate its distinguished history and reaffirm its commitment to poetry with publication of The Wesleyan Tradition.

Drawing from some 250 volumes, editor Michael Collier documents the wide-ranging impact of these works. In his introduction, he describes the literary and cultural context of American poetics in more recent decades, tracing the evolution of the Deep Image and Confessional movements of the 50s and 60s, and exploring the emergence of the “prose lyric” style. Although the success of the Wesleyan program has inspired its share of imitators, no other program has had such a fundamental impact. Works by the eighty-six poets included her both document and celebrate that contribution.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Wesleyan's characteristic independence in scooping up unfound poets and publishing them well--and in sustaining the ongoing publication of established writers like David Ignatow and James Tate--is shown to advantage in this anthology of work drawn from books issued over 34 years. James Wright, Donald Justice, James Dickey, Philip Levine, Ignatow and John Haines appear with 24 others in part one; Tate, Charles Wright and William Harmon, among others, in the ``second decade''; Elizabeth Spires, Heather McHugh, Garrett Hongo, Brenda Hillman, Yusef Komunyakaa et al., in part three; and Maria Flook, Joy Harjo and 11 more in part four, the last and most recent decade represented. Assembling such different writers could impose uneasy choices on a reader, if the quality weren't as high as the range is broad. Happily, no drastic choices are needed, but, as with all anthologies, readers are likely to linger more over some pages, return to others later and search out additional books by some of the writers. The fables of Russell Edson, witty and compressed, draw us into a gnarled and interesting place; the lyricism of Agha Shahid Ali wafts in, out; Gregory Orr's intensely personal drama tugs. A boon of the good anthology is a refusal to be summarized, and this one makes the refusal persuasively. Dec.
Library Journal
Having published nearly 250 books by more than 150 poets in 35 years, the Wesleyan series has gone further than any other in defining the prevailing trends and styles of postwar university-based poetry. Decade by decade, this anthology charts the rise and influence of Deep Imagism, surrealism, confession, and the ``prose lyric'' through works by 86 poets, many of whom Bly, Justice, Levine have become fixtures on the Masters of Fine Arts syllabus. But the urgency and inventiveness of the early decades fades as the poetry grows homelier, longer-winded, less assured of its authority and strength. Luckily, some glimmerings at the fringe of the Nineties Susan Howe, Campbell McGrath, Walid Bitar offer proof of a new vitality that Wesleyan would do well to encourage in the years to come. For more scholarly collections and informed lay readers.-- Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.
From the Publisher
“Wesleyan’s characteristic independence in scooping up unfound poets and publishing them well—and in sustaining the ongoing publication of established writers like David Ignatow and James Tate—is shown to advantage in this anthology . . . The quality is as high as the range is broad.”—Publishers Weekly

“Having published nearly 250 books by more than 150 poets in 35 years, the Wesleyan series has gone further than any other in defining the prevailing trends and styles of postwar university-based poetry. ...Libraries concerned with building and maintaining a meaningful poetry collection are urged to enter a blank order for all the Wesleyan poetry program entries…They represent some of our more important younger poets and a few older members…[The program] is highly recommended.”—Library Journal

“A valuable collection that celebrates the unceasing vitality and fluidity of American poetry”—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819512291
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL COLLIER has won several awards and fellowships for his poetry, a “Discovery” / The Nation award (1981), the 1988 Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Thomas J. Watson fellowship, a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and an NEA creative writing fellowship. A graduate of Connecticut College (B.A. 1976) and the University of Arizona (M.F.A. 1979), Collier has traveled widely—from London to northern Africa to Siberia and Japan—and worked at various times as a house painter and a community activist. He is an assistant professor of English and associate director of creative writing at the University of Maryland and a visiting assistant professor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He was director of the summer writers’ conference at Johns Hopkins in 1987 and coordinator of poetry programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1983-84. His first book, The Clasp and Other Poems, was published by Wesleyan in 1986.
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