Whitman's & Dickinson's Contemporaries: An Anthology of Their Verse

Whitman's & Dickinson's Contemporaries: An Anthology of Their Verse

Whitman's & Dickinson's Contemporaries: An Anthology of Their Verse

Whitman's & Dickinson's Contemporaries: An Anthology of Their Verse

Synopsis

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were not the poetic stars of their day; only a few friends knew that Dickinson wrote, and Whitman's following was minuscule, if influential. But the contemporaries who eclipsed these major poets now have largely disappeared from our literary landscape. In this distinctive anthology, Robert Bain gathers together thirteen other scholars to re-present the poetry of these former luminaries, allowing readers to rediscover them, reconstruct the poetic contexts of their age, and better understand why Whitman and Dickinson now overshadow other poets of their time. Arranged chronologically according to the birth dates of the poets, this anthology introduces each poet's work, providing biographical information and discussing the major forms and themes of the work. Each introduction places the poet in a literary and historical context with Whitman and Dickinson and provides a bibliography of secondary sources. This remarkable book recovers a part of our literary heritage that has been lost.

Excerpt

History, like God in Frost's couplet, has played gigantic jokes on Whitman's and Dickinson's contemporary American poets. During their lifetimes, Walt Whitman had a small coterie of admirers, Emerson and Thoreau among them; only a few friends knew that Emily Dickinson wrote poetry. Many American poets commanding readers' attention during that time have suffered such a decline in reputation that their works are not easily available. This anthology presents the poetry of Whitman's and Dickinson's contemporaries so that readers can rediscover these authors, can reconstruct the poetic contexts of the age, and can better understand why Whitman and Dickinson now so overshadow other poets of their time.

From the middle of the nineteenth century until World War I, most Americans and Europeans identified American poetry not with Whitman or Dickinson, but with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Ralph Waldo Emerson, better known as an essayist, and Edgar Allan Poe, better known as a short story writer, had also established reputations for their poetry. Joining these authors in the pantheon of poets were Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Alice and Phoebe Cary, Bayard Taylor, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Henry Timrod, Sidney Lanier, and many others. Readers would not rediscover such black poets as George Moses Horton and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper until after the middle of this century.

This anthology re-presents some of the period's poets. Scholars are looking with new eyes at these "lost" poets; they are finding good reasons for reading them again. David S. Reynolds' Beneath the American Renaissance (1988) and Cheryl Walker's The Nightingale's Burden: Women Poets and American Culture Before 1900 (1982) re-examine works by these neglected authors to establish their relationship to writers most admired today. Understanding how history has played its jokes is always useful; such . . .

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