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The Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry Hardcover – January 17, 2008

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062717
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,368,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Kirsch's essays are crisp and clear, and he has a kind of fearlessness
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.
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