Green Thoughts, Green Shades
JONATHAN F. S. POST
The poet's instinct is to shun or shed more knowledge
than he can swing or sing.
New Poets of England and America
GREEN THOUGHTS, GREEN SHADES is a book of original essays about lyric poetry written in English during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What differentiates it from other recent collections concerned with the early modern period—to adopt momentarily the period nomenclature currently in use among historicist scholars—is the simple fact that all the essays printed here are written by practicing poets, by people who spend much of their lives thinking in verse and about verse. All the contributors are or have been distinguished teachers of poetry, often in workshop settings, sometimes in lecture halls at their schools and around the country; and almost all have written important criticism, some over the course of four decades, although only a few have concentrated their interpretive energies in print on poetry of the early modern period. Underlying the invitation issued to contemporary poets to write about lyrics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was, therefore, the potential novelty of the encounter itself. What might some of today's poets find of special interest in their forebears and worth retrieving for fellow readers of poetry? And of equal interest, what do their emphases tell us about their own poetry and, more broadly, about how the past continues to form the present?
To be more specific still: given that theoretical and political considerations have dominated the last two decades of “literary” criticism (even