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Body and Soul offers the thoughts of Mark Jarman , a poet associated with the revival of narrative and traditional form, on poetry from the Renaissance to the present. The essays touch on the importance of religion, place, and personal experience to poetry in a wide variety of styles, and reflect Jarman's particular interests as author of the narrative poem Iris and the lyric sequence Unholy Sonnets. Jarman's focus is on the relationship between lyric and narrative, song and story, in poems of all kinds. He considers the poem as a record of both body and soul, and an extended autobiographical essay examines sources for the stories he has told in his poetry.
The essays "Where Poems Take Place" and "A Shared Humanity" consider the relation between setting or situation and representation. "The Primal Storyteller" explores the psychological roots of narrative. Narrative styles of particular poets occupy "Slip, Shift, and Speed Up: The Influence of Robinson Jeffers's Narrative Syntax" and "The Trace of a Story Line," which argues that Philip Levine and Charles Wright employ narration or storytelling in their poetry as a mode of meaning. Other essays consider Donald Davie, Philip Larkin, Herbert Lomas, Louis Simpson, Lyn Hejinian, Tess Gallagher, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and Jarman's own influences.
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