Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary Poetry

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University of Arkansas Press, Apr 2, 2000 - Poetry - 316 pages
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Heresy and the Ideal is a powerful collection of essays and essay-reviews which David Baker wrote and published throughout the 1990s. He thoroughly discusses the work of more than fifty contemporary poets, including T. R. Hummer, Miller Williams, Albert Goldbarth, Jane Kenyon, Galway Kinnell, Charles Simic, Ted Kooser, David Wojahn, Alice Fulton, Louise Glück, and Charles Wright. He takes as his models some of the great critical books of the past three decades, especially Richard Howard's masterpiece, Alone with America, and Helen Vendler's Part of Nature, Part of Us, as well as other works by Laurence Lieberman, Majorie Perloff, Carol Muske, and Mary Kinzie. At its center, Heresy and the Ideal is based on Baker's sense of Romantic poetics, especially on how contemporary poets have applied, altered, or rejected certain Romantic principles. He uses the Romantic trope to measure the tension between passion and reason and between the problems of literary transcendence and the obligations of social engagement. The result is a welcome variety of enlightening, practical criticism devoid of exclusionary jargon and based on persistent attention to an individual poem or book of poems. Utilizing the essay-review, Baker considers each poet's purposes and achievements. He blends the strategies of explanation, analysis, and evaluation, clarifying each poet's work instead of complaining or condemning. Heresy and the Ideal addresses a wide and diverse range of contemporary poetry and should take a deserved place both as a critical introduction to the work of many important poets and as a work that documents and explores the shape of poetry at the end of the millennium.

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Contents

Culture Inclusion Craft
61
The Push of Reading
79
Framed in Words
99
Smarts
119
Kinds of Knowing
137
Plainness and Sufficiency
149
Line by Line
169
On Henri Coulette Diane di Prima June Jordan
191
On Restraint
205
Romantic Melancholy Romantic Excess
221
Adrienne Rich and Philip Levine
239
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Page 40 - Others for language all their care express, And value books, as women men, for dress : Their praise is still — the style is excellent; The sense they humbly take upon content. Words are like leaves ; and where they most abound, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
Page 221 - She dwells with Beauty — Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to Poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine...
Page 239 - You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood. Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.
Page 39 - Poets, like painters, thus unskill'd to trace The naked nature and the living grace, With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part, And hide with ornaments their want of art.
Page 221 - Regarding, then, beauty as my province, my next question referred to the tone of its highest manifestation, and all experience has shown that this tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.
Page 221 - Nevermore." "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting — "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!— quit the bust above My door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!
Page 105 - Against the inside knee was levered firmly. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked Loving their cool hardness in our hands. By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man.
Page 41 - ... Everything has its time. We used to dance. He made me feel the way a human wants to feel and fears to. He was a slow man and didn't expect. I would get off work and find him waiting. We'd have a drink or two and kiss awhile. Then a bird-loud morning late one April we woke up naked. We had made a child. She's grown up now and gone though god knows where. She ought to write, for I do love her dearly who raised her carefully and dressed her well. Everything has its time. For thirty years I never...
Page 106 - But I've no spade to follow men like them. Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it.
Page 182 - We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground The Roof was scarcely visible The Cornice - in the Ground Since then - 'tis Centuries - and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses...

About the author (2000)

David Baker is professor of English and holds the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of creative writing at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and he is on the faculty of the MFA low-residency program at Warren Wilson College. He is the poetry editor of the The Kenyon Review.

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