Rebound: The American Poetry Book

Rebound: The American Poetry Book

Rebound: The American Poetry Book

Rebound: The American Poetry Book


This pioneering collection of new essays challenges established modes of reading American lyric poetry, by orientating interpretation so that it incorporates an awareness of the book context in which individual poems are embedded. These essays critically explore individual books by Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich, Susan Howe, Lyn Hejinian and Jorie Graham, and consider the book as a restrictive, binding concept for Emily Dickinson and some contemporary American poets. Rebound both provides innovative readings of supposedly familiar poets and books, and also generates critical strategies for renewed engagement with American poetry traditions.


Michael Hinds and Stephen Matterson

I felt, even before I learned to read, that a book was a holy object;
this awe perpetuates itself in each attempt to make, of a pile of
poems, a speaking whole

Louise Glück

This book consists of thirteen original articles on individual books of American poetry. the original motivation behind our commissioning of these essays was twofold, being in some measure corrective as well as exploratory. the corrective element arose from a near-axiomatic belief that critical and pedagogical mediations of American poetry, as well as its material transmission, have been and are dominated (perhaps increasingly so) by an emphasis on the individual poem. the reasons for this domination are varied. They include the continuing hegemony of New Criticism as a pedagogic practice and as a conceptual approach through which the poem is privileged and individuated as an autonomous entity; the reading of poetry from anthologies, whereby the context for the individual poem is not made available; classroom practices which concentrate on the decontextualized poem, and the cultural tendency for subjective investment in poetry that leads to concentration on the individual lyric. Our feeling was that this investment in the individual poem was problematic, in that it contradicted the terms in which poets have presented their work. These terms are often implicit in poetic practice, since poets present their poems as a book collection. Some poets have drawn attention to the fact that they perceive the book as the unit, and others have insisted that their poems do not exist as individual units. For example, Louise Glück’s insistence on the reprinting of her early volumes intact in the collection The First Five Books of Poems is founded on two principles. One is that “the idea of revising old work seems odd to me, the spirit animating that work being no longer accessible”, and the other is formal: “much thought went into their shaping.” in her essay for this collection Lucy Collins quotes Adrienne Rich saying exactly that she was “finished with the idea of a poem as a single, encapsulated event, a work of art complete in itself”.

Although many poets have explicitly or implicitly expressed this view of the poem, the weight of pedagogical and publication practice still tends to work against such an apprehension from becoming part of a critical approach. William Carlos

1. Louise Glück, The First Five Books of Poems, Manchester, 1997, xiv.

2. Ibid., xiii, xiv.

3. Adrienne Rich, “Blood, Bread and Poetry: the Location of the Poet”, in Blood, Bread and Poetry: Selected Prose 19791985, London, 1987, 180.

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