Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant

Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant

Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant

Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant

Synopsis

"...a good book in which passionately reminiscential poets look back on the work of a predecessor..." -? "...belongs on the shelves of all libraries interested in American men of letters." -? During the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century, William Cullen Bryant was one of America's pre-eminent poets. A man of wide influence and interests, Bryant also achieved renown as editor of the New York Evening Post. At the time of his death in 1878, he was widely revered both at home and abroad as a great man. His lofty reputation has since receded, but it has not vanished. There are, indeed, signs of renewed interest in restoring Bryant's place. Among recent reappraisals of Bryant, Under Open Sky is remarkable for being written by contemporary American poets, including the Poet Laureate, Richard Wilbur. The editor of and contributor to this book, Norbert Krapf, like Bryant, a poet of nature, invited twenty poets to reflect on Bryant and write aobut him in poetry or prose. This collection consists largely of pieces specifically written for this book. It also contains a few previously published essays and poems. Chosen for 1987 AIGA Annual Graphic Design USA. The Contributors: Richard Wilbur, Richard Eberhart, Philip Appleman, Jared Carter, Vince Clemente, Richare Elman, Paul Engle, William Heyen, John Hollander, Aaron Kramer, Norbert Krapf, Albert F. McLean, Peter Michelson, Robert Morgan, Linda Pastan, Reva Sharon, William Jay Smith, William Stafford, Robyn Supraner, and Grace Volick.

Excerpt

Perhaps this gathering of writings by contemporary American poets about William Cullen Bryant originated when I moved to Roslyn in 1974 after a year of teaching in England. I had moved away from my native Indiana to Long Island in 1970, a few months before I began to write poetry. Without knowing it, for three years every winter I passed within view of Bryant's Cedarmere along Hempstead Bay on my way to teach American literature classes at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University. Those three years, however, my imagination was taken with the rural Midwest I had left behind, not with suburban Long Island. When I moved to Roslyn, where the past is everywhere visible, I wrote my first poems set on Long Island. By the time my wife and I bought a small old house on Main Street in 1977, I was well on my way to completing the slim volume Arriving on Paumanok. Walt Whitman had been influencing the way I was seeing contemporary Long Island; and William Cullen Bryant, who also arrived in Roslyn from elsewhere, was becoming part of my daily landscape. My eyes were opening.

As we settled into our old house, I explored the subject of Bryant's life in, and writings about, Roslyn for what I thought might become a book. That project yielded instead a thirty-page lecture-article titled An Invitation to the Country:
William Cullen Bryant in Roslyn,
condensed here by more than half to the essay on Bryant's Roslyn poems. As I learned more about Bryant's accomplishments as a man of letters and citizen of the community, nation, and world, as I entered and re-entered his poems with students at Long Island University and the University of Freiburg in Germany, I projected a cycle of poems about Bryant at Cedarmere that never seemed to materialize.

In the spring of 1984, William Stafford was scheduled to read his poetry on campus at the annual Poetry Awards Night. Shortly before he was to leave Oregon, I came across a photocopy of my Bryant article, scribbled a note saying the essay might prepare him for his visit to Roslyn, and mailed it to the Kansasborn poet. He surprised me by showing up bright and early one April morning, the day before I expected him, so that we would have time to visit the "Bryant sites" together. He quietly offered his opinion that more people should have the chance to learn the forgotten story of Bryant the man and his poetry. the day after Stafford left I wrote By the Waters of Cedarmere and conceived the idea of a book of writings by fellow poets about this once-famous poet. Stafford replied to my letter about the proposal with the first of two fine poems he sent.

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