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Our Savage Art: Poetry and the Civil Tongue [Hardcover]

William Logan

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Book Description

21 April 2009
The most notorious poet-critic of his generation, William Logan has defined our view of poets good and bad, interesting and banal, for more than three decades. Featured in the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New Criterion, among other journals, Logan's eloquent, passionate prose never fails to provoke readers and poets, reminding us of the value and vitality of the critic's savage art. Like The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, Our Savage Art features the corrosive wit and darkly discriminating critiques that have become the trademarks of Logan's style. Opening with a defense of the critical eye, this collection features essays on Robert Lowell's correspondence, Elizabeth Bishop's unfinished poems, the inflated reputation of Hart Crane, the loss of the New Critics, and a damning-and already highly controversial-indictment of an edition of Robert Frost's notebooks. Logan also includes essays on Derek Walcott and Geoffrey Hill, two crucial figures in the divided world of contemporary poetry, and an attempt to rescue the reputation of the nineteenth-century poet John Townsend Trowbridge. Short reviews consider John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Louise Gluck, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass, Seamus Heaney, and dozens of others. Though he might be called a cobra with manners, Logan is a fervent advocate for poetry, and Our Savage Art continues to raise the standard of what the critic can do.

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Review

There is a grain of truth in almost everything [Logan] writes. -- Jordan Davis Times Literary Supplement 6/19/09 Logan's prose is polished, witty, authoritative, and courageous... Highly recommended. Choice 9/1/2009 The latest installment in William Logan's prolonged and rambunctious assault on the state of American poetry. -- Mark Ford New York Times Book Review 4/26/09 One of the wittiest and most astute poet-critics of our -- or any -- generation... A work of devilish wit, arrogance, insight, and intellect.The Dark Horse -- Rory Waterman The Dark Horse Summer / Autumn 2010 Who's the Best Poetry Critic in America? His name I can mention. William Logan. -- James Wolcott Arguably the most industrious and notorious poet-critic to brandish that hyphen like a knife between his teeth since his acknowledged master Randall Jarrell... He often comes off as nothing so much as the Dirty Harry of the poetry beat. -- David Barber, New York Times Book Review

About the Author

William Logan is the author of nine volumes of poetry and five books of criticism, including The Undiscovered Country, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. He has received the Randall Jarrell Award in Poetry Criticism from the Poetry Foundation, as well as the Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, the Corrington Medal for Literary Excellence, and numerous awards for his poetry. He teaches at the University of Florida.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our savage Critic 12 July 2009
By James W. Ward - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Our Savage Art
William Logan has invigorated poetry criticism. He slashes the hacks and poets who think they are poets but are actually broken prose wordslingers.
I know I was one.The elevation of his criticism has directed me to the more skillful poets- Geoffrey Hill, Auden, Housman, William Logan himself.
Demolished the pretenders Jorie Graham, the confessional poets who write their pathetic lives without an ounce of art. Franz Wright, Mark Doty, Billy Collins goodbye. Hello Larkin, Gjetrud, Schnackenberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Frost.
A stunning very welcome book a corrective to contemporary boosterism among the wannabe poets of today.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1st rate read, also nice criticism 4 Jan 2010
By a reader in front of the front range - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What better way to engage a literary work and its reader than with one's own literary talent? In this and his other books of criticism, I get the feel of Logan's effort and play with each book he reviews. Don't read him for the widespread reputation as sharp tongued or an adversary to contemporaries. I suggest you go in just for the reading experience. You can fully and passionately disagree with him, wish to clobber him to defend your cherished poet. But it is the literary skills of his essays, the (usually) rigorous exploration of his subjects and the pleasure of his wit that make it worthwhile to read him, regardless of whether you agree.

From many instances of the wit, I offer the following from a review of Kooser: "... he stands for a foursquare, hidebound American provincialism that, by gum, has every right to write poems and, by golly, means to write them too. His poems tend to be short, dying for air, afraid to do more than tell you what happened on the porch, or right out the window, or maybe, just once, down the block." Now, many would think this mean-spirited or just mean. I'd counter that, if mean, there's meaning to it. Rather than simply a dry critique, he employs his own literary chops to engage us, is vulnerable to our judgment of his taste and skill, not in order to abuse his subject but to provoke us to think about the subject from more than just our (sometimes dull) intellect or empathy.

Logan seems to me to adhere to a personal as well as critical integrity. This doesn't mean he's always right. But his opinions aren't derived from or loyal to some academic or literary faction. Many times, you find he's especially disappointed that writers of incredible talent, imagination and learning are damaged as the result of a literary zeitgeist that doesn't seem to value coherence or craft. His discouragement clearly gets personal, as he holds writers responsible for diminishing their own potential as well as the potential of the tradition.

I give this book the highest rating because Logan's voice and judgments are so rare and offer such enjoyment. But I confess skimming many pages as my interest in Lowell, Bishop and Florida don't match his. And if Durrell was "a minor poet's minor poet", why write so many pages about him?
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good shape but slightly warped 9 Feb 2011
By Pip - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book had a bit of a warped binding but it is the hardcover I wanted. The book itself is one of the most enjoyable critique of poetry I have ever read.
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