From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. For almost 30 years, beginning in 1970, Pearl London taught a course at the New School called Works in Progress, to which she asked famous poets to come with drafts of new poems in hand. This book is a series of transcripts of discussions from those classes, taken from a series of previously unknown recordings found after London's death and edited by Neubauer (Nature's Thumbprint
). Represented in these 23 conversations are such acknowledged masters of late 20th–century poetry as Robert Hass, Lucille Clifton, Amy Clampitt, and Charles Simic. London was a probing, highly intelligent reader who coaxes statements from her poets that perhaps no one else could: We both love and hate our parents, and it's difficult to accept that because we would like only to love them, Frank Bidart tells her. She goads Edward Hirsch into saying, I feel unmasked! I want to put my jacket on. More than anything else, though, she gets poets to explain their craft in sometimes shockingly clear terms, as when Muriel Rukeyser states, A poem is not about anything, as you who have been working in poems surely know. 22 photos. (Mar. 18)
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*Starred Review* From 1970 to 1998, Pearl London conducted a “Works in Progress” poetry course at the New School in Greenwich Village, inviting poets to bring manuscripts of poems they were struggling with and offer them up for dissection and discussion. London, daughter of M. Lincoln Schuster of Simon & Schuster, was no ordinary teacher, and her guests were nothing less than nascent literary giants. These remarkably candid and inspiring conversations about aesthetic and moral matters would have faded from memory if a stash of forgotten cassette tapes hadn’t been found after London’s death in 2003. Writer and former New Schooler Neubauer selected and judiciously edited 23 exciting interviews, which, accompanied by photographs of the poets and reproductions of their manuscripts, reveal what poets do and why they do it. Maxine Kumin and Robert Hass have opposite views about abstraction in poetry. June Jordan speaks of poetry and politics. Galway Kinnell calls for a new form of nature poems. Derek Walcott speaks of the “honesty of the line.” Extraordinary moments with Frank Bidart, Amy Clampitt, Lucille Clifton, Edward Hirsch, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, and James Merrill create a treasury of passionate and enlightening exchanges that illuminate the very life force of poetry. --Donna Seaman