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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
My Poets
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on December 29, 2014
It took me a long time to get to this on my reading list, but what a treat. This is some kind of hybrid among poetry, prose poetry, memoir and several other things but the important thing is that it portrays a love from poetry that is inspiring and moving. Even if you don't agree with her taste in every instance (not all current readers perhaps will share her enthusiasm for Shelley, for example), her enthusiasm, wit, and insights are gorgeous. And she adds just enough of a touch of self-revelation and reflection to keep us intrigued without making the book about her. Great for anyone who loves poetry.
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on November 24, 2014
I love the experimental style, and it's a joy to read.
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on March 25, 2013
This is a testimonial to the poets who have influenced the writer, herself a fine practitioner of the craft. It is a personal book. "Her" poets are not "my" poets, but the process she goes through contains an important message for anybody who takes poetry seriously.
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on November 30, 2012
The poet, Maueen McLane, writes of her visceral responses to various poems and includes some "found" poems of her own. This is a remarkable, moving book. Would that poetry were taught this way in schools. Everyone would read it.
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on March 1, 2013
I must admit, I don't understand the anger of one reviewer at what he views as exclusionary language in Maureen McLane's "My Poets" -- that's like playing tennis with Serena Williams and being angry because she's making great shots that you can't replicate. I say, relax and enjoy the beauty of a linguistic athlete at play, as well as relish the chance to stretch yourself a little!

This is a beautiful book; playful, sensitive, funny and filled with the joy of reading and responding to poetry and words -- the chapter on the Chaucerian word 'kankedort' is worth the price of the book -- and Maureen McLane drenches us in the language of the poet both through quotation and by allowing the particulars of the poet's language to seep into McLane's own prose. You may or may not agree with her understanding of the essentials of any given poet's language, but she brings you into the game with such genuine pleasure, it would be a shame not to accept the invitation and enjoy the chance to move with an expert.
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on June 21, 2012
McLane's book is an archaeology of the self -- through the materials of poetry. She examines her changing response to the same lines. She is conscious that a critic does not have an objective perspective, but one that is dynamic, shifting, and vulnerable. She looks at poetry as biographical meaning. She is not concerned for the poem alone, but who the poet is through the poem. Digging into her past, into the love and loss of a woman, she allows the memories and lost presence to suffuse everything.

This book reminds us that verse is not meant to be read... it is meant to be lived. That poetry is only rewarding, sometimes, when truly difficult -- that is, when the reader overcomes herself, to meet the poem as poet-in-poem. As McLane shows, when the reader accomplishes this, her own life will paradoxically enliven and inform the poem with her own breath and memories. But at this point, the reader has gone beyond simple associations. She has reached the life- and poetry-defining point of deep readership.

Whether you're the type who enjoys word and language manipulation yourself, a la Parlett's THE Book of Word Games -- or you prefer to watch expert world-bending in action, a la Borges' Labyrinths, you will find yourself in good company here.
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on January 1, 2013
At times it was like crashing the gates of a private club or MFA Poetry program and reading bylaws meant for members only (more on that in a moment). And at times it was like reading someone's (OK, Maureen McLane's) thesis paper on this poet or that. And my, but McLane writes in a pretty how town way. Professorial stuff:

"Through Sappho she explored as well a kind of somatic poetics, a kind of sensually incarnational NOW." (Huh?)

"The vatic inward versus the detailed observed. The hieratic versus the potentially conversable." (Say wha-?)

"Much of the force of great modernist works arises from their desublimating impulse channeled into shatteringly, newly adequate forms..." (Again?)

Very impressive indeed, these $10 gibbers and $5 -ishes. I hadn't a clue, but I nodded at all the right moments. Some chapters dragged on forever. "My Marianne Moore and Moore and More and More and Will She Ever Stop?" That and one to "H.D." Hilda Doolittle? I'd never known this poet. I wear my ignorance on my sleeve but, deep in my vest, wanted to learn -- if only I could clear the vatic hurdles of incarnational, desublimating language.

In another chapter called "My Translated: An Abecedary," McLane deluges the reader with four pages of one liners, each saying things like "My Alcaeus is David A. Campbell," "My Akhmatova is Judith Hemschemeyer," "My Durs Grunbein is Michael Hofmann," "My Paul Muldoon is Paul Muldoon." Of course there are some poets the layreader will recognize, but they are few and far between, and seldom will many readers recognize both names in McLane's apparently clever pairs.

On and on it goes like an insider's wink, and I can't help but regret how this type of thing sets poetry back anew, perpetuating the belief that poetry is rarefied air meant only for rarefied lungs. It's as if McLane is signaling to others in her club, others who will recognize her each allusion and her every dropped historic and contemporary name, nodding knowingly like priests at a secret temple. Don't we put the eru- in -dite, the winks seem to say. We, the Keepers of Truth and Beauty in a great, unwashed world of bestseller-readers or (more horrifying still) TV-watchers and Youtube addicts.

Throughout the book lines of many poets are shared, though seldom in the entirety of the poem they are taken from. Often McLane tries some of her own poetry on for size. (It doesn't fit.) Some of the professional poems are in bold print, others in italics. Often I can't tell which line belongs to whom. Is this McLane? Is it the featured poet in question? Is it other poets brought in as background vocals for harmony?

But I liked OK the chapter (short) on Emily D., the Belle of Amherst. And the one on Shelley, too, but only because McLane talked mostly about his adolescent-like obsessions for free love or lust and half-priced revolutions, and not so much about his poetry. It's as if she took a wrong turn, found herself in the realm of biography, and the natives cheered.

Two of the chapters were found poems. Giant, 85-line poems, each line purloined from a poet's great work. It's a wonderful parlor game, but I wasn't about to trudge through all 85 lines in either case. Like excerpts from symphonies on public radio, all stitched together, it was. Gogol's overcoat, chapter and verse.

Marvelous moments, yes. Ambitious idea, surely. And I was grateful to catch glimpses of some lovely lines previously unknown. But, in the end, the book gets bogged down by too much ivory and too much tower. If you read poetry for a living and don't need a program guide (or an intermission) to get through such "learn'd astronomer's" thoughts as McLane's, you will certainly enjoy her book. Otherwise, pass. Hold tightly to what you already know and love about poems you've met and appreciated thus far in life.

And for heaven's sake, keep reading poetry.
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