Poems of Ambrose Bierce

Poems of Ambrose Bierce

Poems of Ambrose Bierce

Poems of Ambrose Bierce

Synopsis

Ambrose Bierce is one of the most colorful figures in American literary history. A writer whose Devil's Dictionary remains the delight of misanthropes and fans of satire throughout the English-speaking world, he was also a master of the short story form. From the late 1860s through the early 1900s, he worked as a journalist, gaining wide renown in the 1890s and 1900s as a satirical columnist for William Randolph Hearst's chain of newspapers. In 1913 Bierce traveled to Mexico and joined Pancho Villa's army as an observer. He disappeared late that year and his fate has been a matter of dispute ever since. The poems that Bierce wrote throughout his career are less well known than his stories, journalistic pieces, and aphoristic observations on human folly. Nevertheless, his work as a poet, as critic Donald Sidney-Fryer has argued, "clearly merits the attention of the discriminating lover and student of poetry." Varied in form and subject matter, most of his poems are (not surprisingly) satires. This volume contains a generous selection of Bierce's poems; they are alternately ironic, melancholy, bitter, and wickedly amusing. There are also fifteen essays and letters on poetry, poets, and such topics as "Wit and Humor" and "The Passing of Satire." Certainly there have been few authors more intimately familiar with wit and satire than the brilliant, iconoclastic Bierce. As editor M. E. Grenander makes plain in her introduction, both are abundantly present in this collection of "some of the most remarkable verse in American literary history."

Excerpt

Ambrose Bierce has always hovered on the margins of America's literary canon. and even there, his place has been secured by his short stories and the epigrammatic definitions in his Devil's Dictionary. Most readers will be startled to learn that he wrote any poetry at all. Hence I was not only gratified but also mildly surprised at being invited to contribute an essay on Bierce to the Garland Encyclopedia of American Nineteenth-Century Poetry, a commentary on the Library of America's anthology, for Bierce's inclusion in these volumes meant that his verses were at last entering the mainstream of American literature. This introduction is an expansion of the essay I wrote for the Garland Encyclopedia, and the poems that follow it greatly outnumber the selections in the Library of America anthology. For Bierce, despite his own disclaimers, was a poet, one who occupies a unique niche in nineteenth-century American verse. According to the sole modern commentator on his work in this area of literature, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Bierce as poet has "remained almost unknown," although he "clearly merits the attention of the discriminating lover and student of poetry" (11).

Born June 24, 1842, on a farm in Meigs County, Ohio, Bierce in 1846 moved with his family to northern Indiana, where, except for a brief sojourn in 1859 as a student at the Kentucky Military Institute, he grew up and attended high school. During these years the United States was being torn apart by what remains its darkest tragedy, the legal bondage . . .

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