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The Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry Hardcover – January 17, 2008
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which allows him to be very direct-- often usefully so-- in summing up the essential poetic
character of this poet or that. There are real insights here, and the length of the essays
often eight pages-makes them really easy to digest.
At the same time, though intelligent and insightful at times,
he suffers from premature certainty-- which, like premature ejaculation,
isn't really fair to his partner. Criticism requires generalizations and opinions,
but Kirsch will sum up and dismiss a carreer in a few words, which don't really
grant much amplitude to encompassing a whole, often valuable body of work. When he
discusses CD Wright, for instance, he divides poetry into "rude" and "reader-friendly" poetry,
and though I don't much like Wright's drift into scrambled fragmented forms, either,
she's a more interesting poet than these silly categories can accomodate. That
is an example of a young poet/critic's error-- too much swagger.
Hopefully Kirsch will continue to grow, to enlarge his categories, and to be
a little more nuanced in his assessments.