Academic journal article Field

Nancy Willard: A Field Symposium

Academic journal article Field

Nancy Willard: A Field Symposium

Article excerpt

When Nancy Willard died in February, the New York Times obituary rightfully praised her as a novelist and writer of children's books, but it omitted any examination of her achievement as a poet for adults. We hope this symposium will help redress the balance. FIELD was perhaps especially sensitive to the oversight sinceWillard played such a significant role in the history of this magazine. Three of her poems first appeared in #12 (Spring 1975), and over the following four decades we were happy to publish nearly three dozen more. We reviewed her important 1982 volume Household Tales of Moon and Water, and she contributed illuminating essays to our symposia on Randall Jarrell (1986) and Emily Dickinson (1996), which were later reprinted in Poets Reading.

There is in fact a good deal of both Jarrell and Dickinson in NancyWillard's work: combine Jarrell's keen-eyed, incisive attention to detail with Dickinson's visionary wit, and you might get a poet something like Willard. But through the course of a long and varied career her voice remained distinctly her own: wry, slightly detached, often balanced between the lyric and the narrative, between childlike innocence and darker experience. Storytelling was central to her poems: the structures of myths, fairy tales, and fables recur, as does the sense that such narrative modes are necessary ideas of order in a world that frequently seems unstable and haunted. …

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