Magazine article World Literature Today

Letters

Magazine article World Literature Today

Letters

Article excerpt

Poetic Illuminations

Jane Hirshfield's essay on American poetry in your September issue was my numberone favorite piece. Perhaps I date myself-I was a creative-writing student under Madison Morrison in spring 1974 when he brought Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, James Merrill, Thom Gunn, and others not just to the University of Oklahoma but to our class. Yet for the first time, reading Hirshfield's article, I saw the connection between Whitman and the New York School and later poets. It also doesn't hurt in evoking my enthusiasm to note that Billy Collins and Tony Hoagland are my two favorite poets writing today. In that sense, Hirshfield was singing to the choir.

But that should not diminish her achievement in explaining in clear language the numerous crosscurrents that converge in and elevate American poetry. How she accomplished to say so much, so clearly, and without pretension or resort to esoteric erudition is not only miraculous but mundane (worldly) in a very positive though uncommon sense of that word- grounded, insightful, full of common sense, and yet luminous. …

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