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Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversation with America's Poets 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0307269676
ISBN-10: 0307269671
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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*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

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Read an excerpt from Poetry in Person by Alexander Neubauer [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269676
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,407,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander Neubauer is the author of three works of nonfiction: Poetry in Person: 25 Years of Conversation with America's Poets (Knopf, 2010); Conversations on Writing Fiction: Interviews with Distinguished Teachers of Fiction Writing in America (HarperCollins), and Nature's Thumbprint: The New Genetics of Personality (Columbia University Press). His book reviews and essays have appeared in Time Out New York, Poets & Writers Magazine, and other periodicals. For many years he taught fiction writing at the New School, in New York City. Born and raised in Manhattan, he now lives in Cornwall, Connecticut with his wife, the writer April Stevens, and their two children.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Hersch on May 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for a paper I was writing on Louise Gluck, and ended up reading and liking the whole thing. I love all the different bases that the book covers. First of all, the informed, spontaneous conversation between a writer and a careful reader--which reminded me of that collection of interviews from the Believer, "Writers talking to Writers." And then the workshop aspect of it--of students being about to ask the writers directly about their work and their process. And then, finally, the drafts that the poets bring in with them to the workshops (many of these are included in the book), that show the evolution and the fluidity of the poems. Added to all of this are the author's short but illuminating introductions to the poets; I wasn't familiar with some of them, but he did a great job putting them quickly in context. All in all, a really great book!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Klein on March 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Open this handsome volume to any page and you will be absorbed into insightful and intriguing discussions of the creative process of some of the greatest poets working during the last forty years. An acclaimed teacher at the New School in New York invited acclaimed poets to her class, where they discussed their writing in depth. The sessions were taped, rediscovered in recent years, and several dozen elegantly edited with introductions that give helpful context. The result is a work that will inform not just any reader of poetry but anyone fascinated by the creative act.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By mary brogan-sizemore on August 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Inspiring collection of interviews by a dedicated teacher of poetry-writing who has persuaded working poets to come to her classroom. Check the Table of Contents for an index of great modern poets who visited. This book provides a valuable insider's view of how a poet thinks and works. An important piece from each writer-guest is published. I suggest that one read a selection daily, as a poetry-devotional. Not nightly, becqause the ideas and feelings ignite the reader. For bed-time reading, I prefer a cozy mystery novel. "Poetry in Person" will wake you right up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Michael Albert on February 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I approached Poetry in Person as one would one's Saturday night dose of castor oil. Not pleasant, but necessary. After all, I am a poet. I read and write a lot of poetry. I talk to a lot of people about poetry and encourage many people to become poets. So I should do this, right? No problem. From the very beginning, these interviews provided real insight into the poets' thinking. These were not the dulling and boring slog through metrics and personal biography of the "What made you want to become a poet?"-type I'd anticipated. They were real people saying real things about their work--and, if nothing else, you'll come away from this book with a new appreciation of the enormous amount of work that goes into making a poem. Every interview is rewarding. Two other things. I just finished reading a collection of interviews by a generally younger group of poets who, to my surprise, all mentioned a real debt to Elizabeth Bishop. This somewhat older generation turned constantly to the essays of Auden and Eliot and the essays and poems of Stevens for auctoritatis and, yes, they referred to the work of Elizabeth Bishop (who was a near contemporary to some of them); but the touchstone poet they most referred to was Rilke, especially the Duino Elegies. Also, I should not wrap this up before I praise the index of this book. This invaluable index was clearly not farmed out to someone in the third basement of the publishing house. Some real work was put into this index by someone who appreciated the goldmine of information presented between the covers of this book. Not only are there the references to poets, which you'd expect, but there are also references to such poetically important topics as "anger in poetry," "form," "line breaks," "rhyme," "rhythm," "revision," and a hundred others, sorted alphabetically by the name of the poet commenting on them. At last! A useful index in a truly useful book.
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