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William Logan has been called both the "preeminent poet-critic of his generation" and the "most hated man in American poetry." For more than a quarter century, in the keen-witted and bare-knuckled reviews that have graced the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement (London), and other journals, William Logan has delivered razor-sharp assessments of poets William Logan has been called both the "preeminent poet-critic of his generation" and the "most hated man in American poetry." For more than a quarter century, in the keen-witted and bare-knuckled reviews that have graced the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement (London), and other journals, William Logan has delivered razor-sharp assessments of poets present and past. Logan, whom James Wolcott of Vanity Fair has praised as being "the best poetry critic in America," vividly assays the most memorable and most damning features of a poet's work. While his occasionally harsh judgments have raised some eyebrows and caused their share of controversy (a number of poets have offered to do him bodily harm), his readings offer the fresh and provocative perspectives of a passionate and uncompromising critic, unafraid to separate the tin from the gold. The longer essays in The Undiscovered Country explore a variety of poets who have shaped and shadowed contemporary verse, measuring the critical and textual traditions of Shakespeare's sonnets, Whitman's use of the American vernacular, the mystery of Marianne Moore, and Milton's invention of personality, as well as offering a thorough reconsideration of Robert Lowell and a groundbreaking analysis of Sylvia Plath's relationship to her father. Logan's unsparing "verse chronicles" present a survey of the successes and failures of contemporary verse. Neither a poet's tepid use of language nor lackadaisical ideas nor indulgence in grotesque sentimentality escapes this critic's eye. While railing against the blandness of much of today's poetry (and the critics who trumpet mediocre work), Logan also celebrates Paul Muldoon's high comedy, Anne Carson's quirky originality, Seamus Heaney's backward glances, Czeslaw Milosz's indictment of Polish poetry, and much more. Praise for Logan's previous works: Desperate Measures (2002)"When it comes to separating the serious from the fraudulent, the ambitious from the complacent, Logan has consistently shown us what is wheat and what is chaff.... The criticism we remember is neither savage nor mandarin.... There is no one in his generation more likely to write it than William Logan."--Adam Kirsch, Oxford American Reputations of the Tongue (1999)"Is there today a more stringent, caring reader of American poetry than William Logan? Reputations of the Tongue may, at moments, read harshly. But this edge is one of deeply considered and concerned authority. A poet-critic engages closely with his masters, with his peers, with those whom he regards as falling short. This collection is an adventure of sensibility."--George Steiner "William Logan's critical bedevilments-as well as his celebrations-are indispensable."--Bill Marx, Boston Globe All the Rage (1998)"William Logan's reviews are malpractice suits."--Dennis O'Driscoll, Verse "William Logan is the best practical critic around."--Christian Wiman, Poetry


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William Logan has been called both the "preeminent poet-critic of his generation" and the "most hated man in American poetry." For more than a quarter century, in the keen-witted and bare-knuckled reviews that have graced the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement (London), and other journals, William Logan has delivered razor-sharp assessments of poets William Logan has been called both the "preeminent poet-critic of his generation" and the "most hated man in American poetry." For more than a quarter century, in the keen-witted and bare-knuckled reviews that have graced the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement (London), and other journals, William Logan has delivered razor-sharp assessments of poets present and past. Logan, whom James Wolcott of Vanity Fair has praised as being "the best poetry critic in America," vividly assays the most memorable and most damning features of a poet's work. While his occasionally harsh judgments have raised some eyebrows and caused their share of controversy (a number of poets have offered to do him bodily harm), his readings offer the fresh and provocative perspectives of a passionate and uncompromising critic, unafraid to separate the tin from the gold. The longer essays in The Undiscovered Country explore a variety of poets who have shaped and shadowed contemporary verse, measuring the critical and textual traditions of Shakespeare's sonnets, Whitman's use of the American vernacular, the mystery of Marianne Moore, and Milton's invention of personality, as well as offering a thorough reconsideration of Robert Lowell and a groundbreaking analysis of Sylvia Plath's relationship to her father. Logan's unsparing "verse chronicles" present a survey of the successes and failures of contemporary verse. Neither a poet's tepid use of language nor lackadaisical ideas nor indulgence in grotesque sentimentality escapes this critic's eye. While railing against the blandness of much of today's poetry (and the critics who trumpet mediocre work), Logan also celebrates Paul Muldoon's high comedy, Anne Carson's quirky originality, Seamus Heaney's backward glances, Czeslaw Milosz's indictment of Polish poetry, and much more. Praise for Logan's previous works: Desperate Measures (2002)"When it comes to separating the serious from the fraudulent, the ambitious from the complacent, Logan has consistently shown us what is wheat and what is chaff.... The criticism we remember is neither savage nor mandarin.... There is no one in his generation more likely to write it than William Logan."--Adam Kirsch, Oxford American Reputations of the Tongue (1999)"Is there today a more stringent, caring reader of American poetry than William Logan? Reputations of the Tongue may, at moments, read harshly. But this edge is one of deeply considered and concerned authority. A poet-critic engages closely with his masters, with his peers, with those whom he regards as falling short. This collection is an adventure of sensibility."--George Steiner "William Logan's critical bedevilments-as well as his celebrations-are indispensable."--Bill Marx, Boston Globe All the Rage (1998)"William Logan's reviews are malpractice suits."--Dennis O'Driscoll, Verse "William Logan is the best practical critic around."--Christian Wiman, Poetry

43 review for The Undiscovered Country: Poetry in the Age of Tin

  1. 4 out of 5

    H

    400 pages of introduction and collected scrap-thoughts. What I learned: 1. every age of poets falls into its own fashion, thinking they're the next great geniuses. they're usually wrong. 2. colloquializing and dumbing down poetry today is a product of poor education in english grammar, english literature, and english history. it is not in line with the movement which has come through whitman, williams, and lowell. 3. by the same token, sharon olds' poetry is a poor corruption of confessionalism. (I 400 pages of introduction and collected scrap-thoughts. What I learned: 1. every age of poets falls into its own fashion, thinking they're the next great geniuses. they're usually wrong. 2. colloquializing and dumbing down poetry today is a product of poor education in english grammar, english literature, and english history. it is not in line with the movement which has come through whitman, williams, and lowell. 3. by the same token, sharon olds' poetry is a poor corruption of confessionalism. (I still like her) 4. by the same token, the movement toward all-consuming critical theory and treatment of both art and non-art as "texts" is destructive to progress and reception of art. 5. read books, not poems. What I didn't learn: 1. what logan actually regards as a standard of quality. sincerity, sure, but that's in marianne moore's words. significance to poetry and its future, sure, but he's no flagbearer or flagchooser. 2. where we're headed. or any big picture. Who I want to read now: 1. jarrell 2. lowell 3. auden Why this took so long to read: 1. graham greene's prose is much more authorial and authoritative than this, more even-handed and to the point. heather mchugh's hyper-awareness of language/syntax/puns overwhelm but have a function, working toward poetic arguments and being part of personality. logan can hardly get through a sentence without interrupting--the reading, of course (but mostly)--himself to insert wit, like that. that's not personality leaking through; that's a solipsistic cry for attention. 2. critics judge from on high. the only way to avoid distasteful quantitative evaluation is to poeticize by analogy and hyperbole (yo poem is so bad even homer simpson's rollin' in his grave). this is a waste of time. to criticize jarrell for describing a bishop poem as "calm" thrice one page is superficial and very much beside the point. One passage I liked: "Perhaps I have gone too far, suggesting that in poetry the modern notion of personality first becomes accessible in Milton's everyday language, but only if the impress of personality does not lie in our own use of that language. To write in form now, with ears alienated by nearly a century of free verse, is to look back to any earlier period--any period later than Shakespeare's, at least--with a longing toward a past that did not suffer our own dissociation of sensibility, that had a less conscious and less embarrassed relation to its forms but a notion of how the vernacular might triumph within form. I use Eliot's phrase advisedly, with avarice rather than irony, knowing its faults but with respect for its sometimes unappreciated virtues. Any period is likely to feel its ruptures from the past more than its binding ligatures: we are always in the material condition of the Fall, though our notions of Paradise change. For Eliot, in 1921, it was the atonement--or at-one-ment--that poets like Donne achieved without reflection. The metaphor of the mirror is arch as well as bestial--we have long since rendered demonic a creature without reflection." -from "Milton in the Modern: The Invention of Personality", p217 And this one, beginning on a general enough topic that his own personal wisdom can actually shine through: "Readers who think the one kind of writing helps the other, that the criticism hand washes the poetry hand, forget that it is difficult enough to achieve the cloud of unknowing in which poetry must be written, and far harder when there's a critic telling the poet what he ought to be doing or--worse luck--the meaning of what he has done. And no critic needs a poet whispering in his ear that most poetry is scribbled with blind means toward unconscious ends, that luck and happenstance play a horrifyingly large role in writing verse." -from "Auden's Shakespeare", p331

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stacie Nishimoto

    re-reading this because Logan makes me itchy to read scads of poetry. In this “Age of Tin,” where Logan sadly notes most American adults will not read “a poem or a play or a novel” in half a year, his provocative criticism challenges readers to seek out verse's hidden gems. Logan’s criticism reminds me of a section in Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius where the protagonist (Eggers), founder of Might, describes a desperate moment in the magazine’s career, “We have debunked a v re-reading this because Logan makes me itchy to read scads of poetry. In this “Age of Tin,” where Logan sadly notes most American adults will not read “a poem or a play or a novel” in half a year, his provocative criticism challenges readers to seek out verse's hidden gems. Logan’s criticism reminds me of a section in Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius where the protagonist (Eggers), founder of Might, describes a desperate moment in the magazine’s career, “We have debunked a version of the Bible written for black kids. We have debunked the student loan program. We debunk the idea of college in general, and work in general, and marriage, and makeup, and the Grateful Dead—it is our job to point out all this artifice, everywhere, and the work is rewarding, bringing truth to an unsuspecting—[his appendix bursts here:]”. It is not that Eggers no longer cares about the world and Logan no longer cares about poetry, just the opposite. Their negativity attempts to trigger a response, to save the liberal “twentysomethings” from “vichyssoise” and poetry from obscurity, respectively. Logan’s criticism has real appeal with its narrative style, poetic repetition, and quirky parenthetical notes, and I wonder if he knew when he dubbed this age the “Age of Tin,” that the metal (like a love for poetry?) resists corrosion.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Randall

    C'mon, you know you love every wicked moment....

  4. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Klawitter

    "So, the world is collapsing, as it always and ever is, and only a fool would write poetry criticism to put things right." -William Logan.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jude Brigley

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  9. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

  10. 4 out of 5

    Burt Myers

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  13. 4 out of 5

    National Book Critics Circle

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Higgins

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dustin Sander

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wyatt.Petersen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Danılo Horă

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adhaar

  20. 4 out of 5

    Edward Ferrari

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gustavo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Danish Shabbir

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Koehn

  24. 5 out of 5

    Derek McDow

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robert Paglia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Jones

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

  28. 5 out of 5

    Collier Brown

  29. 4 out of 5

    ali

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

  31. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Jagger

  32. 4 out of 5

    Buck

  33. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  34. 4 out of 5

    Corey

  35. 4 out of 5

    Karla Aguirre

  36. 4 out of 5

    Adam Crothers

  37. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  38. 4 out of 5

    Yinzadi

  39. 4 out of 5

    Tom Johnson

  40. 5 out of 5

    Brgstn

  41. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  42. 5 out of 5

    Bud Parr

  43. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

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