The Art of Description: World into Word


Mark Doty - 2010
    "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . ." Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others. The Art of Description is an invaluable book by one of America's most revered writers and teachers.

Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning


Owen Barfield - 1928
    Returning always to this personal experience of poetry, Owen Barfield at the same time seeks objective standards of criticism and a theory of poetic diction in broader philosophical considerations on the relation of world and thought. His profound musings explore concerns fundamental to the understanding and appreciation of poetry, including the nature of metaphor, poetic effect, the difference between verse and prose, and the essence of meaning.Forward by Howard Nemerov.

Young Eliot: A Biography


Robert Crawford - 2015
    S. Eliot, Robert Crawford presents us with the first volume of a definitive biography of this poetic genius. Young Eliot traces the life of the twentieth century’s most important poet from his childhood in St. Louis to the publication of his revolutionary poem The Waste Land. Crawford’s depiction of Eliot’s childhood—laced with tragedy and shaped by an idealistic, bookish family in which knowledge of saints and martyrs was taken for granted—provides readers with a new understanding of the foundations of some of the most widely read poems in the English language. Meticulously detailed and incisively written, Young Eliot portrays a brilliant, shy, and wounded American who defied his parents’ wishes and committed himself to an artistic life as an immigrant in England, creating work that is astonishing in its scope and vulnerability.     Quoting extensively from Eliot’s poetry and prose as well as drawing on new interviews, archives, and previously undisclosed memoirs, the award-winning biographer Robert Crawford shows how the poet’s background in Missouri, Massachusetts, and Paris made him a lightning rod for modernity. Most impressively, Young Eliot reveals the way he accessed his inner life—his anguishes and his fears—and blended them with his omnivorous reading to create his masterpieces "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and The Waste Land. At last, we experience T. S. Eliot in all his tender complexity as student and lover, penitent and provocateur, banker and philosopher—but most of all, Young Eliot shows us as an epoch-shaping poet struggling to make art among personal disasters.

This Little Art


Kate Briggs - 2018
    Taking her own experience of translating Roland Barthes’s lecture notes as a starting point, the author threads various stories together to give us this portrait of translation as a compelling, complex and intensely relational activity. She recounts the story of Helen Lowe-Porter’s translations of Thomas Mann, and their posthumous vilification. She writes about the loving relationship between André Gide and his translator Dorothy Bussy. She recalls how Robinson Crusoe laboriously made a table, for him for the first time, on an undeserted island. With This Little Art, a beautifully layered account of a subjective translating experience, Kate Briggs emerges as a truly remarkable writer: distinctive, wise, frank, funny and utterly original.

What is Literature?


Jean-Paul Sartre - 1948
    His writings had a potency that was irresistible to the intellectual scene that swept post-war Europe, and have left a vital inheritance to contemporary thought. The central tenet of the Existentialist movement which he helped to found, whereby God is replaced by an ethical self, proved hugely attractive to a generation that had seen the horrors of Nazism, and provoked a revolution in post-war thought and literature. In What is Literature? Sartre the novelist and Sartre the philosopher combine to address the phenomenon of literature, exploring why we read, and why we write.

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years


Philip Rowland - 2013
    Although haiku originated as a Japanese art form, it has found a welcome home in the English-speaking world. This collection tells the story for the first time of Anglophone haiku, charting its evolution over the last one hundred years and placing it within its historical and literary context. It features an engaging introduction by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins and an insightful historical overview by leading haiku poet, editor, and publisher Jim Kacian.The selections range from the first fully realized haiku in English, Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” to plentiful examples by haiku virtuosos such as John Wills, Marlene Mountain, Nick Virgilio, and Raymond Roseliep, and to investigations into the genre by eminent poets like John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, and Seamus Heaney. The editors explore the genre’s changing forms and themes, highlighting its vitality and its breadth of poetic styles and content. Among the many poems on offer are organic form experiments by E. E. Cummings and Michael McClure, evocations of black culture by Richard Wright and Sonia Sanchez, and the seminal efforts of Jack Kerouac.

The Hatred of Poetry


Ben Lerner - 2016
    It's even bemoaned by poets: "I, too, dislike it," wrote Marianne Moore. "Many more people agree they hate poetry," Ben Lerner writes, "than can agree what poetry is. I, too, dislike it and have largely organized my life around it and do not experience that as a contradiction because poetry and the hatred of poetry are inextricable in ways it is my purpose to explore."In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art. He examines poetry's greatest haters (beginning with Plato's famous claim that an ideal city had no place for poets, who would only corrupt and mislead the young) and both its greatest and worst practitioners, providing inspired close readings of Keats, Dickinson, McGonagall, Whitman, and others. Throughout, he attempts to explain the noble failure at the heart of every truly great and truly horrible poem: the impulse to launch the experience of an individual into a timeless communal existence. In The Hatred of Poetry, Lerner has crafted an entertaining, personal, and entirely original examination of a vocation no less essential for being impossible.

The World Within the Word


William H. Gass - 1978
    Included are discussions of Valéry, Henry Miller, Sartre, Freud, Faulkner, suicide, "art and order," and the transformation of language into poetry and fiction. The vividness and clarity of Gass's writing, the unabashed love and inimitable use of language-his startling metaphors, the sinuousness of his philosophy, the originality of his vision-make each essay a searching revelation of its subject, as well as an example of Gass's own singular artistry.

Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost


Stanley Fish - 1971
    S. Lewis) that the poet's sympathies are obviously with God and the angels loyal to him.The achievement of Stanley Fish's Surprised by Sin was to reconcile the two camps by subsuming their claims in a single overarching thesis: Paradise Lost is a poem about how its readers came to be the way they are--that is, fallen--and the poem's lesson is proven on a reader's impulse every time he or she finds a devilish action attractive or a godly action dismaying.Fish's argument reshaped the face of Milton studies; thirty years later the issues raised in Surprised by Sin continue to set the agenda and drive debate.

Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction


Richard Toye - 2013
    Aristotle wrote an important treatise on it and Demosthenes remains famous to this day for his skills as a rhetorician. But skill with rhetoric today is no longer admired. Rhetoric is often seen as a synonym for shallow, deceptive language-empty words, empty rhetoric--and therefore as something quite negative. But if we view rhetoric in more neutral terms, as the "art of persuasion," it is clear that we are all forced to engage with it at some level, if only because we are constantly exposed to the rhetoric of others. In this Very Short Introduction, Richard Toye explores the purpose of rhetoric. Rather than presenting a defense of it, he considers it as the foundation-stone of civil society, and an essential part of any democratic process. Using wide-ranging examples from ancient Greece, medieval Islamic preaching, the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill, and modern cinema, Toye considers why we should all have an appreciation of the art of rhetoric.About the Series:Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.

Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century


Marjorie Perloff - 2010
    Marjorie Perloff here explores this intriguing development in contemporary poetry: the embrace of "unoriginal" writing. Paradoxically, she argues, such citational and often constraint-based poetry is more accessible and, in a sense, "personal" than was the hermetic poetry of the 1980s and 90s. Perloff traces this poetics of "unoriginal genius" from its paradigmatic work, Benjamin’s encyclopedic Arcades Project, a book largely made up of citations. She discusses the processes of choice, framing, and reconfiguration in the work of Brazilian Concretism and Oulipo, both movements now understood as precursors of such hybrid citational texts as Charles Bernstein’s opera libretto Shadowtime and Susan Howe’s documentary lyric sequence The Midnight. Perloff also finds that the new syncretism extends to language: for example, to the French-Norwegian Caroline Bergvall writing in English and the Japanese Yoko Tawada, in German. Unoriginal Genius concludes with a discussion of Kenneth Goldsmith’s conceptualist book Traffic—a seemingly "pure’" radio transcript of one holiday weekend’s worth of traffic reports. In these instances and many others, Perloff shows us "poetry by other means" of great ingenuity, wit, and complexity.

Break Every Rule: Essays on Language, Longing, and Moments of Desire


Carole Maso - 2000
    Ever refusing to be marginalized or categorized by genre, Maso is an incisive, compassionate writer who deems herself daughter of William Carlos Williams, a pioneer in combining poetry and fiction with criticism, journalism, and the visual arts. She is daughter, too, of Allen Ginsberg, who also came from Paterson, New Jersey. Known for her audacity, whether exploring language and memory or the development of the artistic soul, Maso here gives us a form-challenging collection, intelligent, and persuasive.

Theory of Prose


Victor Shklovsky - 1929
    Now translated in its entirety for the first time, Theory of Prose not only anticipates structuralism and post-structuralism, but poses questions about the nature of fiction that are as provocative today as they were in the 1920s. Arguing that writers structure their materials according to artistic principles rather than from attempts to imitate "reality," Shklovsky uses Cervantes, Tolstoi, Sterne, Dickens, Bely, and Rozanov to give us a new way of thinking about fiction and, in his most impassioned moments, about the world. Benjamin Sher's lucid translation will allow Shklovsky's Theory of Prose to fulfill its destiny as a major theoretical work of the twentieth century. "A rambling, digressive stylist, Shklovsky throws off brilliant aper�us on every page. . . . Sixty-five years after it first appeared, Theory of Prose remains an exciting book: Like an architect's blueprint, it lays bare the joists and studs that hold up the house of fiction." (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World 5-5-91) "This 1929 book by one of the founding fathers of Russian formalism is one of the most important works in the history of literary theory. . . . Shklovsky's enormously influential work is brilliant, provocative, and, by turn, elliptical and digressive. It is also whimsical and sometimes chaotic." (Choice) "[The] essays published in Theory of Prose reveal why Shklovsky might have become the most important literary theorist of our century, had history taken a different course." (Poetics Today) "Clearly there is a happy congruity between Shklovsky's insights and the modern consensus. His observations on various authors and techniques cause one to ponder. A random paragraph causes sudden illumination. This is not a manifesto but the incisive thoughts of a scholar in the quiet of his study. Dalkey Archive Press is to be thanked for making it available again." (ZYX 9-92)

Notes on Conceptualisms


Vanessa Place - 2009
    Poetics. In NOTES ON CONCEPTUALISMS, Place and Fitterman erect the first critical framework toward the understanding of conceptual writing, an emergent early twenty-first century literary movement. Elegantly parsed and carefully dissected, this work fleshes out many of the missing details proposed thus far regarding the methodologies and strategies of how to proceed with innovative writing. Both direct and oblique, NOTES is itself a self-reflexive work of conceptual writing in the guise of theory; or is it a work of theory in the guise of conceptual writing? By smartly straddling the creative and the critical, this book does twice the work toward our understanding of what it means to be contemporary--Kenneth Goldsmith.

The Art of Writing: Lu Chi's Wen Fu


Lu Chi - 2000
    Discussing the joys and problems that face both writer and reader, it is for those who wish to engage the art of letters at its deepest level. "These timeless poems delve into the heart of writing." - Cleveland Plain Dealer Poet