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The Reaper Essays Paperback – March, 1996


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The Reaper, a literary quarterly, ceased publication after 18 issues in 1989, having fulfilled is proclaimed purpose: to make a place in contemporary American poetry for narrative poetry and to improve poetry reviewing and criticism. Editors Jarman and McDowell created an editorial persona known as "The Reaper" to expound on editorial views in each issue. Essays, letter exchanges, and satirical interviews from the magazine are collected in this current title. The appendix shows the covers and contents pages of each issue. Typical of The Reaper's style and views is this observation on Wallace Stevens: "That is one problem with Steven [sic] influence?that a poet can think on paper, make a poem of that thought process, call it meditation, and still get nowhere." The collection provides a good overview of the journal and a look back at the poetry scene of the 1980s and the New Narrative movement. Of interest to academic libraries.?Nancy Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville,
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Story Line Press (March 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1885266219
  • ISBN-13: 978-1885266217
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,869,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By adead_poet@hotmail.com on April 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Jarman and McDowell came along with their magazine, The Reaper, when it was needed most. They've done a lot to bring back narrative poetry (McDowell is the founder of Story Line Press). They wrote these essays together, and weren't afraid to say what they thought--they weren't afraid to make anyone mad (they remind me of Randall Jarrell in that way). Meg Schoerke's introduction and the first Reaper essay introduce those of us who are unfamiliar with The Reaper. "Navigating the Flood" takes on criticism, and they aren't afraid to name names. Their essay on Wallace Stevens discusses his impact on contemporary poetry and the narrative. Two essays, "The Reaper's Non-negotionable Demands" and "The Elephant Man of Poetry" (which is about Robert Frost) are the two best essays in the book, and two of the best essays about poetry. They attack the state of poetry with satire and humor in "The Reaper Interviews Jean Doh and Sean Dough" and "The Dogtown Letters", and both essays will make you laugh out loud. The sad thing is that it just as easily could have been real. In addition to four other essays, there is also a guide to writing narrative poetry. This collection is so great that you wish that The Reaper was still in circulation, and you hope that one day Jarman and McDowell will collect a "Best of" and release it soon.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anna Evans on September 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
How refreshing it was to encounter The Reaper Essays. The Reaper was a literary journal which ceased publication in 1989 after 18 issues. The Editors, Mark Jarman & Robert McDowell, believed that by then they had achieved their stated aim of creating the circumstances in which a new narrative poetry might flourish. The Reaper was their editorial persona named as responsible for many of the excellent essays contained in this book. (Other chapters, no less excellent, include a fictitious correspondence between Dante and Homer, and a laugh out loud hilarious spoof of an interview with a contemporary poet couple.)

On the positive side, I feel as though I have finally been given permission to write narrative poetry. Selections such as "The Reaper's Non-Negotiable Demands," which includes a call for no more poems about poetry, and "How to Write Narrative Poetry" which gives ten admirable rules to follow, not only encourage me to believe in the art form but also prompt me to reconsider my own oeuvre, past and present. On the negative side, I think Mark & Robert downed the scythe too early. In "Thanatopsis Revisited" that po-biz icon American Poetry Review comes under their microscope and is accused of publishing too few narrative poems. Now I happen to have the most recent issue of APR and found that 17 years later we have about the same proportion of narrative: lyric.

My other evidence for this lack of progress goes back to the spoof interview "The Reaper Interviews Jean Doh & Sean Dough." I doubt I would have found this chapter so hilarious if it wasn't, alas, still so true.
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