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The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth Hardcover – August 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 900 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556591713
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556591716
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.8 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born in the Midwest but predominantly known as a founding poet of the San Francisco renaissance, Rexroth (1905-1982) wrote from deep within multiple traditions of world literature, Eastern and Western philosophy, and radical politics. Rexroth published many of his 54 books with New Directions, and while a good number are in print, some editions are more than 30 years old. This volume, scrupulously edited by novelist and poet Morrow (Ariel's Crossing) and poet and Copper Canyon publisher Hammill, brings much disparate and previously uncollected material together chronologically, including Rexroth's brilliant long poem "The Dragon and the Unicorn." The difficulty of assigning Rexroth a comfortable place on syllabi contributes to his current invisibility: some of Rexroth's earliest efforts in verse are cubist-influenced (some were included in Zukofsky's "Objectivist" issue of Poetry magazine), but Rexroth made a decision to make his poetry less opaque relatively early in his career, creating a technique that mixed a classical structure with a romantic sensibility. From "Between Myself and Death": "A fervor parches you sometimes,/ And you hunch over it, silent,/ Cruel, and timid; and sometimes/ You are frightened with wantonness,/ And give me your desperation./ Mostly we lurk in our coverts,/ Protecting our spleens, pretending/ That our bandages are our wounds." Though Rexroth published translations from Greek, French, Chinese, and Japanese (including Japanese women writers, extremely rare for the time), this edition is obliged to exclude them. While a tireless promoter of younger poets and neglected contemporaries, Rexroth is largely remembered as the "father of the Beat generation" (a label he repeatedly rejected as when he told Time magazine, "An entomo st is not a bug"), but he was, and remains, a great poet in his own right.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Although his translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry, his promotion of the Beat poets, and his literary journalism made him famous, Rexroth (1905-82) was first a fine original poet. As coeditor Hamill notes in the introduction here, Rexroth was a neoclassicist serving the avant-garde, like Ezra Pound before him and James Laughlin, who published him and his enthusiasms at New Directions, with him. His most characteristic poetry consists of short erotic and reflective lyrics that reflect his knowledge--fundamentally self-taught--of classical Western as well as Eastern literature, of Catullus as well as Tu Fu; and of long, philosophical, politically radical (anarchist) narrative travel poems. He experimented a bit with peculiarly modernist literary manners, such as literary cubism, but settled on a seven-syllable line as his distinctive medium for original poetry. Most of the latter 500 pages of this book is in that line, and if you love looking things up and taking reading side-trips, Rexroth is one of the most readable and rewarding twentieth-century American poets. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By James Maughn on January 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Kenneth Rexroth was one of the most significant and influential American poets of the last half of the 20th century. This long overdue volume collects all his published poetry, as well as a wealth of previously uncollected material. Rexroth's erudition is remarkable, and his strongly syllabic verse is sometimes subtle, sometimes didactic, but always richly musical and intellectually sophisticated. His long poems, particularly "The Phoenix and the Tortoise" and "The Dragon and the Unicorn" are especially recommended, as are the "translations" he wrote in the guise of a Japanese woman poet, "The Love Poems of Marichiko."
Rexroth has for too long been overshadowed by his brief association with the Beats. Hopefully, this collection will demonstrate the lasting contribution he made to American literature.
Now with any luck Sam Hamill and Company at Copper Canyon will see fit to publish a collected translations, and perhaps a collected prose...
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Publicagent on April 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Aftering having read the majority of this volume, I am immeasurably impressed. Kenneth Rexroth is the real deal and encompasses a vast array of human life including nature, mysticism, mathematics, science, social issues, history, various cultures and an incredible lyricism that weaves it all together. I find something lacking in most of the authors that I read, included many revered to be among the best, though I can't seem to get enough of Rexroth, especially the longer poems that unfold like great narratives bringing in abstraction to his poetic technique. It is evident that he does not use words to impress, but is incredibly well-studied and compassionate enough to have purpose in all that he wrote. This is what poety is all about. The entire thing reverberates with power and beauty from the early poems that he composed, to the bulk written at the height of his power, to the more reflective ones at the end of his career. The introduction by Sam Hamill is of short length and is excellent as well.

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By x on December 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
This collection of Rexroth's complete poetry is long overdue. Maybe this volume will force academia to revisit his work and finally place him among the greatest American poets of the last century, which is precisely where he belongs. His poetry is learned and has a deceptive simplicity. With the exception of his early cubist work, his poetry is remarkable for its clarity. He wrote some of the finest nature and love poetry of his generation. The beauty of Rexroth's poetry is that the reader gets to experience what it is like to engage with life fully. Buy a copy for yourself as well as one for a friend. You will not regret it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Naughton on August 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
"The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth" is an audacious achievement by Editor Sam Hamill, Bradford Morrow and Copper Canyon Press. From Sam Hamhill's Introduction we journey backward to 1948 when McCarthy witch hunts were imminent, Atom Bombs were the American threat and Existentialists Andre Breton and Jean-Paul Sarte and Camus questioned their philosophies. Ezra Pound was incarcerated at the Elizabeth's Hospital for the insane. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, 43 year old Kenneth Rexroth's voice was emerging as he penned the "Dragon and the Unicorn" poem and finalized the book "The Signature of All Things." He helped promote poets like FerlinghettiA Coney Island of the Mind: Poems and found the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, he testified in court and confounded the prosecution of Ginsberg's Howl.

Through Rexroth we see a complex lens of world cultures. He translated poems by Neruda, Lorca, Chinese poetry and Japanese classics. Read "Between Two Wars," The Phoenix and the Tortoise," the classic "Thou Shall Not Kill-- a memorial for Dylan Thomas The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas: The Original Edition."

And all the birds of the deep sea rise up/Over the luxury liners and scream/"You Killed him! You killed him!/In your God damned Brookes Brothers suit/You son of a bitch.

Sure, Kenneth Rexroth did not care to be labeled "Father of the Beats," but we as readers know otherwise.
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By Autonomeus on January 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I discovered Rexroth's poetry at a young age, and he has been a life-long inspiration. For many years I had a copy of The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, which I dipped into again and again. I had never sought out the longer poems until discovering this Copper Canyon Press book published in 2004.

Rexroth (1905-1982) was an anarchist and a pacifist. First exposed to the Left in Chicago during World War I and the Twenties, he was a conscientious objector and worked in a hospital in California during World War II. His poetry encompasses the full spectrum of life -- love, nature, mystical spirituality, literature, and politics. His scathing indictments of war and capitalism are a major part of what makes his writing so compelling.

The 750 pages of Rexroth's poetry includes:

Earliest and Uncollected Poems
The Homestead Called Damascus (1920-1925)
The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1920-1930)
A Prolegomenon to a Theodicy (1925-1927)
In What Hour (1940)
The Phoenix and the Tortoise (1944)
The Signature of All Things (1949)
The Dragon and the Unicorn (1952)
In Defense of the Earth (1956)
Natural Numbers (1964)
Godel's Proof (1965)
The Heart's Garden, the Garden's Heart (1967)
Love Is An Art of Time (1974)
The Morning Star (1979)

Here is a quote from "For Eli Jacobson" (December 1952), from "In Defense of the Earth":

There are few of us now, soon
There will be none.
Read more ›
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