Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms

85 Leading Contemporary Poets Select and Comment on Their Poems
David Lehman, Editor
An unexpectedly entertaining collection of writing by poets discussing the creative inspiration and artistic form of their work.


This unique anthology has as its focus the notion of form in contemporary poetry. No subject has attracted more vigorous discussion within the community of poets and critics in the past ten years. If we are to understand what form is and how it shapes poetic expression, we must turn to the poems themselves for clues. And if we are very lucky, we can listen to the voice of the poets who wrote them.

In Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms, contemporary poets have selected one poem, commenting on the occasion of its creation and on the form the poem eventually took. Originally published in 1987 with a selection of 65 poets, this revised and expanded edition adds selections by twenty additional poets. Other revisions include an enlarged glossary of terms, and more expanded biographies of individual poets. The range of contributors is wide, and includes John Ashbery, John Cage, Rita Dove, Alice Fulton, Marilyn Hacker, Yusef Komunyakaa, James Merrill, Thylias Moss, Robert Pinsky, Charles Simic, and Richard Wilbur. Among the new contributions is Wyn Cooper's poem "Fun," which was the basis for Sheryl Crow's Grammy-award winning song "All I Wanna Do."

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a virtual book of revelations for all those who have wondered what makes poems and poets tick."
    --Boston Book Review
  • "Eliot once argued that an important poet creates the conditions under which he will be read and appreciated. The self-reflexive, virtually autobiographical currents in Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms undoubtedly are what render it so indispensable and unprecedented."
    --Boston Review
  • ". . . superlative. . . . Serious fun."
    --Daria Donnelly, Commonweal
  • "[A] generous and sharp-witted anthology . . . an intriguing and unusually informative glimpse into the creative process."
  • ". . . a rewarding glimpse of the passion and restraint, the control and the chaos, the artifice and the chance at work in those who practice poetry."
    --Publishers Weekly
  • "This anthology allows creative-writing students to feel as if they are actually sitting alongside the leading poets at their seminar tables. In these circumstances they can hash out and compare their own newly fashioned poetics with the published poets' more or less expedient ones. Surely this is a sensible pedagogical environment in which to talk about the process of composing poems."
    --Sewanee Review
  • "With its extraordinary range of work Ecstatic Occasions suggests that the possibilities for poetry are endless."
    --Stacey Harwood, Times Union
  • "There's an abundance of sonnets, double sonnets, villanelles, pantoums, sestinas, and abecedaria. . . a useful and entertaining anthology."
    --Washington Post Book World

Look Inside


Preface to the Second Edition     ix
Preface to the 1987 Edition     xi

A.R. Ammons     1
John Ashbery     2
Frank Bidart     5
Eavan Boland     16
Donald Britton     18
Lucie Brock-Broido     20
John Cage     23
Maxine Chernoff     26
Amy Clampitt     27
Marc Cohen     29
Wyn Cooper     31
Alfred Corn     33
Douglas Crase     36
Robert Creeley     39
Tom Disch     42
Jim Dolot     45
Rita Dove     48
Maria Flook     53
Alice Fulton     56
Jonathan Galassi     60
Amy Gerstler      63
Dana Gioia     65
Debora Greger     68
Marilyn Hacker     71
Rachel Hadas     76
Mac Hammond     79
William Hathaway     80
Anthony Hecht     83
Gerrit Henry     89
Daryl Hine     91
Edward Hirsch     92
John Hollander     95
Paul Hoover     100
Richard Howard     102
Colette Inez     105
Phyllis Janowitz     108
Lawrence Joseph     110
Donald Justice     113
Richard Kenney     115
John Koethe     118
Yusef Komunyakaa     120
Ann Lauterbach     123
David Lehman     125
Brad Leithauser     128
William Logan     129
J.D. McClatchy     131
Heather McHugh     133
Michael Malinowitz     136
Harry Mathews     138
William Matthews     140
James Merrill     144
W.S. Merwin     145
Susan Mitchell     147
Robert Morgan     150
Dave Morice     152
Howard Moss     156
Thylias Moss     158
Harryette Mullen     162
Charles North     167
Joyce Carol Oates     171
Molly Peacock     172
Robert Pinsky     175
Katha Pollitt     177
Mary Jo Salter     179
Lloyd Schwartz     181
Charles Simic     183
Louis Simpson     186
Elizabeth Spires     190
Jon Stallworthy     194
Mark Strand     197
Richard Stull     199
James Tate     201
Lewis Turco     203
John Updike     207
Mona Van Duyn     210
Paul Violi     216
Rosmarie Waldrop     219
Rosanna Warren     221
Marjorie Welish     222
Bernard Welt     224
Susan Wheeler     226
Richard Wilbur     228
Charles Wright     231
John Yau     234
Stephen Yenser     236

A Brief Glossary of Forms and Other Terms     239
Further Reading     257
Acknowledgments     259

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 228pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1996
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06633-9

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  • $24.95 U.S.