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Our Savage Art: Poetry and the Civil Tongue Hardcover – April 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

There is a grain of truth in almost everything [Logan] writes.

(Jordan Davis Times Literary Supplement)

Logan's prose is polished, witty, authoritative, and courageous.... Highly recommended.

(Choice)

The latest installment in William Logan's prolonged and rambunctious assault on the state of American poetry.

(Mark Ford New York Times Book Review)

One of the wittiest and most astute poet-critics of our--or any--generation.... A work of devilish wit, arrogance, insight, and intellect.The Dark Horse

(Rory Waterman The Dark Horse 1900-01-00)

Who's the Best Poetry Critic in America? His name I can mention. William Logan.

(James Wolcott)

Arguably the most industrious and notorious poet-critic to brandish that hyphen like a knife between his teeth since his acknowledged master Randall Jarrell.... He often comes off as nothing so much as the Dirty Harry of the poetry beat.

(David Barber, New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

Spare the rod, spoil the poet.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (April 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231147325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231147323
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,342,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James W. Ward on July 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Our Savage Art
William Logan has invigorated poetry criticism. He slashes the hacks and poets who think they are poets but are actually broken prose wordslingers.
I know I was one.The elevation of his criticism has directed me to the more skillful poets- Geoffrey Hill, Auden, Housman, William Logan himself.
Demolished the pretenders Jorie Graham, the confessional poets who write their pathetic lives without an ounce of art. Franz Wright, Mark Doty, Billy Collins goodbye. Hello Larkin, Gjetrud, Schnackenberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Frost.
A stunning very welcome book a corrective to contemporary boosterism among the wannabe poets of today.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By a reader in front of the front range on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
What better way to engage a literary work and its reader than with one's own literary talent? In this and his other books of criticism, I get the feel of Logan's effort and play with each book he reviews. Don't read him for the widespread reputation as sharp tongued or an adversary to contemporaries. I suggest you go in just for the reading experience. You can fully and passionately disagree with him, wish to clobber him to defend your cherished poet. But it is the literary skills of his essays, the (usually) rigorous exploration of his subjects and the pleasure of his wit that make it worthwhile to read him, regardless of whether you agree.

From many instances of the wit, I offer the following from a review of Kooser: "... he stands for a foursquare, hidebound American provincialism that, by gum, has every right to write poems and, by golly, means to write them too. His poems tend to be short, dying for air, afraid to do more than tell you what happened on the porch, or right out the window, or maybe, just once, down the block." Now, many would think this mean-spirited or just mean. I'd counter that, if mean, there's meaning to it. Rather than simply a dry critique, he employs his own literary chops to engage us, is vulnerable to our judgment of his taste and skill, not in order to abuse his subject but to provoke us to think about the subject from more than just our (sometimes dull) intellect or empathy.

Logan seems to me to adhere to a personal as well as critical integrity. This doesn't mean he's always right. But his opinions aren't derived from or loyal to some academic or literary faction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By transponder on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I simply can't get enough of Logan's wonderful, sunlit criticism. Which is ironic, considering that he is supposed to be 'savage'. If you have an interest in the cultural world, the chances are that he will have much among his essays to interest you. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
My manifesto reflects Logan's book- which I have muchly enjoyed- (see below).
We are in his debt for his sharp eyed evaluation of the tripe and trifling with which the american poetry scene surrounds us. With no self criticism it churns out mediocrity after mediocrity. The essays in this book will thrill and amaze you- why? because they cut thru the american "brite siding- all is well- bs" and get to a deeper level- Thank you William Logan.

I find much poetry today is really prose- people cut lines off a la William Carlos Williams or Ezra Pound- with no sense of rhythm- just try running lines of much modern poetry together and see if it makes any difference- it doesn't. It might as well be prose.
There’s too little music and our verse is academic, or as I say it- acadaeemic (as in anemic) Much lacks passion- is effete, demure and wan- everybody seems to be channeling Elizabeth Bishop without her wit.
If you are going to chop lines off willy nilly, trying to follow the pauses of natural speech- I hope you have something to say! Williams made a point out of describing a wheelbarrow or a plum- since he was the first- this was refreshing- THEN! In that poem, Williams gave grandeur to a thing- a “pure product”. But since?
In music we draw double lines at points of a natural pause- where a natural phrase ends- the same applies to poetry- but now everybody is unnaturally pausing.
Look at poems in the New Yorker magazine, Poetry Mag or the American Poetry Review?- no passion-as I say it “ acadeem ic “ Most seems slicked over with a veneer of superficiality. To me the word that describes it is “smug”. There’s no magic.
A character in Mcnurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” would say it’s got no “sand”, no “grit.” And I’m not just talking about the female writers.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book had a bit of a warped binding but it is the hardcover I wanted. The book itself is one of the most enjoyable critique of poetry I have ever read.
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