Synopses & Reviews
“In the fall of 1970, at the New School in Greenwich Village, a new teacher posted a flyer on the wall,” begins Alexander Neubauers introduction to this remarkable book. “It read ‘Meet Poets and Poetry, with Pearl London and Guests.” Few students responded. No one knew Pearl London, the daughter of M. Lincoln Schuster, cofounder of Simon & Schuster. But the seminars first guests turned out to be John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, and Robert Creely. Soon W. S. Merwin followed, then Mark Strand and Galway Kinnell.
London invited poets to bring their drafts to class, to discuss their work in progress and the details of vision and revision that brought a poem to its final version. From Maxine Kumin in 1973 to Eamon Grennan in 1996, including Amy Clampitt, Marilyn Hacker, Paul Muldoon, Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, and U.S. poet laureates Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Louise Glück, and Charles Simic, the book follows an extraordinary range of poets as they create their poems and offers numerous illustrations of the original drafts, which bring their processes to light. With James Merrill, London discusses autobiography and subterfuge; with Galway Kinnell, his influential notion that the new nature poem must include the city and not exclude man; with June Jordan, “Poem in Honor of South African Women” and the question of political poetry and its uses. Published here for the first time, the conversations are intimate, funny, irreverent, and deeply revealing. Many of the drafts under discussion—Robert Hasss “Meditation at Lagunitas,” Edward Hirschs “Wild Gratitude,” Robert Pinskys “The Want Bone”—turned into seminal works in the poets careers.
There has never been a gathering like Poetry in Person, which brings us a wealth of understanding and unparalleled access to poets and their drafts, unraveling how a great poem is actually made.
"For almost 30 years, beginning in 1970, Pearl London taught a course at the New School called 'Works in Progress,' to which she asked famous poets to come with drafts of new poems in hand. This book is a series of transcripts of discussions from those classes, taken from a series of previously unknown recordings found after London's death and edited by Neubauer (Nature's Thumbprint). Represented in these 23 conversations are such acknowledged masters of late 20th century poetry as Robert Hass, Lucille Clifton, Amy Clampitt, and Charles Simic. London was a probing, highly intelligent reader who coaxes statements from her poets that perhaps no one else could: 'We both love and hate our parents, and it's difficult to accept that because we would like only to love them,' Frank Bidart tells her. She goads Edward Hirsch into saying, 'I feel unmasked! I want to put my jacket on.' More than anything else, though, she gets poets to explain their craft in sometimes shockingly clear terms, as when Muriel Rukeyser states, 'A poem is not about anything, as you who have been working in poems surely know.' 22 photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A remarkable collection of newly discovered conversations with poets, taped in the classroom of the legendary New School teacher Pearl London.
London invited poets to bring their drafts to class, to discuss their work in progress and the details of vision and revision that brought a poem to its final version. “The shaping spirit of the imagination is what it is all about,” she told students. From Maxine Kumin in 1973 to Eamon Grennan in 1996, including Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and U.S. poet laureates Louise Glück and Charles Simic, the book covers an extraordinary range of poets and their concerns. With James Merrill, London discusses autobiography and subterfuge; with Galway Kinnell, his influential notion that the new nature poem must include the city and not exclude man; with June Jordan, the question of political poetry and its uses. The conversations are intimate, funny, irreverent, and deeply revealing. Many of the drafts under discussionRobert Hasss “Meditation at Lagunitas,” Edward Hirschs “Wild Gratitude,” Robert Pinsky's “The Want Bone”turned out to be seminal works in the poets careers.
There has never been a gathering like that in Poetry in Person, which brings us a wealth of understanding and unparalleled access to poets and their drafts, unraveling how a great poem is actually made.
There has never been a gathering like "Poetry in Person," which brings readers a wealth of understanding and unparalleled access to poets and their drafts, unraveling how a great poem is actually made.
About the Author
Alexander Neubauer is the author of two previous works of nonfiction, Conversations on Writing Fiction: Interviews with Thirteen Distinguished Teachers of Fiction Writing in America and the acclaimed Natures Thumbprint: The New Genetics of Personality. His book reviews and essays have appeared in Time Out New York, Poets & Writers, and other periodicals. For many years he taught fiction writing at the New School in New York City. Born and raised in Manhattan, he now lives in Cornwall, Connecticut.
Table of Contents
Maxine Kumin * November 13, 1973
"For My Son on the Highways of His Mind," "Sperm"
Robert Hass * December 14, 1977
"Meditation at Lagunitas"
Muriel Rukeyser * February 22, 1978
Philip Levine * March 29, 1978
"You Can Have It"
Louise Glück * February 28, 1978
"For My Mother," "Autumnal," "World Breaking Apart"
June Jordan * March 21, 1979
"Poem for South African Women"
James Merrill * May 23, 1979
Mirabell: Books of Number
Marilyn Hacker * April 15, 1980
"The Hang-Glider's Daughter"
Galway Kinnell * March 24, 1981
"Little Sheep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight"
Derek Walcott * May 5, 1982
Amy Clampitt * February 22, 1983
Lucille Clifton * May 3, 1983
Stanley Plumly * April 29, 1986
C.K. Willaims * March 1, 1988
Molly Peacock * April 7, 1992
Robert Pinsky * November 16, 1993
"The Want Bone"
Edward Hirsch * October 2, 1993
Frank Bidart * March 1, 1994
William Matthews * March 29, 1994
"My Father's Body"
Paul Muldoon * March 14, 1995
Li-Young Lee * March 29, 1995
Charles Simic * April 19, 1995
"Official Inquiry Among the Grains of Sand"
Eamon Grennan * March 15, 1996
Postscript: "Pearl London" by Robert Polito