This collection of essays by esteemed poet and scholar Stephen Yenser contends that poetry thrives in these United States, that revelatory work is being done in quite different and seemingly oppositional camps, and that in view of its abundance and variety there is no need for the critic to debunk or deride. Like W. H. Auden, Yenser believes that mediocre poetry withers away quickly and that even good poetry dies if not attended to.
A Boundless Field takes its title from Walt Whitman's sanguine view of the future of American poetry as he expressed it in "Democratic Vistas," a view that seems all the more pertinent today. During the later twentieth century, poetry in the United States branched out in many directions, ranging from a formalism influenced by New Criticism and a subsequent Neo-Formalism through the New York School and Language Poetry to a postmodern maximalism too diverse to categorize. The essays and reviews collected in this volume take up the work of poets writing in these different areas and writing into the twenty-first century.
Yenser's constant criteria for worthiness of attention include an alertness to the long tradition of English and American poetry, a consistent awareness of the integrity of the poetic line, a simultaneous commitment to verbal play and verbal work, and an implicit acknowledgment of two of Wallace Stevens's declarations: first that all admirable poetry is experimental poetry, and second that at first blush all good poems put up a certain resistance to the reader. Hence the usefulness of "criticism."
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