In his third contribution to the Poets on Poetry series, Louis Simpson provides an assortment of memoirs and criticism that cover a rich array of literary and personal subjects.The first part of the book is autobiographical, and includes subjects ranging from his first encounter with a poet to his work as an editor in Manhattan and his days as a young instructor teaching Great Books to undergraduates.
The second half of the book contains critical essays that discuss among other subjects the life and poetry of Laura Riding, the neglect of poetry in the United States, and the strategies of sex in Whitman's poetry, contemporary Jamaican poetry, and the work of poets James Wright, Seamus Heaney, and Boris Pasternak. Simpson's writing departs sharply from what he considers "the jargon of 'theory' that passes for literary criticism in university departments of English." He believes that the essence of poetry is lyric or narrative, and that the poets praised in Ships Going into the Blue exhibit those qualities generously.
Louis Simpson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English, State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and two Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. His Collected Poems were published in 1989.