Reputations of the Tongue: On Poets and Poetry

Reputations of the Tongue: On Poets and PoetryWilliam Logan

University Press of Florida, 1999
ISBN: 0813016975

William Logan has been called the most dangerous poetry critic since Randall Jarrell. A critic of intensity and savage wit, he is the most irritating and strong-minded reviewer of contemporary poetry we have. A survey of American, British, and Irish poetry in the eighties and early nineties, Reputations of the Tongue is a book of poetry criticism more honest than any since Jarrell’s Poetry and the Age.

The book opens with an essay arguing with Eliot over tradition and individual talent; it closes with a close scrutiny of contemporary British and Irish poetry. At the heart of the book are long essays on W. H. Auden, W. D. Snodgrass, Donald Justice, and Geoffrey Hill – and the reviews of major and minor contemporary poets that have earned Logan his reputation.

Appearing in publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, Poetry, Parnassus, and Sewanee Review, Logan’s reviews have been noted for their violence, intelligence, candor, and humor. Many aroused tempers on first publication, leading one Pulitzer Prize winner to offer to run the critic over with a truck. Even as he tackles the radical excess of Ashbery and Ginsberg, however, Logan lauds the rich quietudes of Elizabeth Bishop and James Merrill, the froth and verbal fervor of Amy Clampitt, the philosophical comedies of Gjertrud Schnackenberg. The essays in this collection take the long view. Aspiring to more than miscellany or gossip, Reputations of the Tongue is the work of a critic for whom the reviewing of poetry is still a high calling.

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