Synopses & Reviews
In her first collection of essays, Molly McQuade performs the role of the ideal reader-passionately interested in ideas and irrepressibly ambivalent. She considers poetry from its composition or translation to its publication, critical reception, and consumption. Her close readings of poems by Emily Dickinson and John Ashbery, among others, offer new insights for those readers blinded by familiarity. She reflects on the consequences of literary friendships, such as Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop's, and contends with hostile influences and their benefits-in her own case, confronting and absorbing the work of E.B. White.
But McQuade refuses to stay within the lines that describe poetry per se. Her thoughts on the genre are also enriched by discussions of distinctly nonverbal poetic expression in painting and film, theater and dance. McQuade invigorates prosody's perennial questions-form and function, fashion and faction-and addresses the importance of humor as an elixir for thinking. She dares to define the subject of poetry itself as pleasure. "Poetry," she ventures, "doesn't need to be literary."
In every instance, these essays feature a fine mind's play on the page as well as McQuade's characteristic expertise: an awareness that is at once historically informed and hip. If metaphor itself expands the mind's capacity for contrary ideas, then McQuade is a metaphor made manifest. Among writers on writing, here is a writer who is utterly and remarkably unlike any other.
Molly McQuade's essays and criticism have appeared in The Village Voice, Hungry Mind Review, New England Review, Boston Review, Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. She has served as editor of the monthly Poetry Calendar magazine and previously founded and edited the poetry review column of Publishers Weekly. Her writing has received fellowships and awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Illinois Arts Council. Her first book, An Unsentimental Education, a collection of biographical portraits of writers, was published in 1995 by the University of Chicago Press. Her poetry, nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, ha
"A journey through poetry, skippered by a first-person personal narrator." (au. description)