The Wounded Surgeon by Adam Kirsch
essays on poetry of Sylvia Plath, Delmore Schwartz, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, and Robert Lowell

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Essays on six poets in The Wounded Surgeon by Adam Kirsch:
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  1. Robert Lowell.
  2. Elizabeth Bishop.
  3. John Berryman.
  4. Randall Jarrell.
  5. Delmore Schwartz.
  6. Sylvia Plath.

Part 1: Robert Lowell.

Page on Robert Lowell.

Part 2. Elizabeth Bishop.

Page on Elizabeth Bishop.

Part 3. John Berryman

Page on John Berryman.

        "By insisting that the poet's actual life can be a valid subject for poetry, that personality is just as important as craft, Berryman was voicing the common feelings of his generation. ... as he grew more convinced of his artistic path, his condemnation of Eliotic impersonality grew more strident. In a 1957 essay, Eliot's theory has been demoted from 'perverse and valuable' to 'amusing,' and by 1960 it has become 'intolerable.' In 1962 Berryman turned to sarcasm: 'One thing critics not themselves writers of poetry occasionally forget is that poetry is composed by actually human beings, and tracts of it are very closely about them'."
[p. 120 of The Wounded Surgeon by Adam Kirsch].

Part 4: Randall Jarrell

Page on Randall Jarrell.

From Jarrell's prose introductions to his poems in his first publication in a book of poetry in Five Young American Poets, where he asserts "that Modernism is not modern":

        Rather than being essentially new, a definitive break with nineteenth-century Romanticism -- as Eliot and Pound had declared -- Jarrell argued that "'Modern' poetry is, essentially, an extension of romanticism; it is what romantic poetry wishes or finds it necessary to become." The essay goes on to catalogue at length the continuities between Romantic and Modernist poetry: "very interesting language, a great emphasis on connotation, 'texture'; extreme intensity, forced emotion -- violence; a great deal of obscurity ... experimental or novel qualities of some sort," ... They can be reduced to a common denominator: both Romantic and Modernist poetry, Jarrell suggests, strive for ever more complex and difficult expressions. In its language, emotions, and organization, Modernism exponentially multiplies the strangeness and difficulty of poets like Wordsworth and Shelley ... a "quantitative change," not a qualitative one. The Modernists were not revolutionaries as they believed, but inheritors, and their poetry represented not a new beginning but "The end of the line" [as Jarrell later entitled a revised version of his essay] [p. 155-156].


        Jarrell came to believe, as he wrote to Elizabeth Bishop in 1957, that "life beats art, so to speak, and sense beats eccentricity, and the way things really are beats the most beautiful unreal visions, half-truths, one can fix up by leaving out and indulging oneself." All the major poets of his generation would eventually come to a similar conclusion. [p. 173].

Part 5: Delmore Schwartz.

Page on Delmore Schwartz.

Part 6. Sylvia Plath.

Page on Sylvia Plath.

Links and Books.

Links and Books.

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