Reflexive Poetics: A Critical Anthology
Author: Ethan Lewis
Date Of Publication: Aug 2012
“It is tremendously important that great poetry be written. It makes no jot of difference who writes it.” Ezra Pound’s remark makes some polemic, but still more prescriptive sense, as evaluative of our present situation. Some great poetry (never mind the far larger quantity of trash) is emerging – from countless coteries of devoted artists, quite plausibly in your community. This anthology brings to press fifteen exemplary poets from Springfield, Illinois and its environs. Yet though endorsing their wider popularity, this critical anthology advances an interpretative method. We can garner much from reading the justly famed poets reflexively, with those lesser known in our midst. Any specific poem of the highest quality is informed by, and informs through, comparison with works of like caliber. Indeed, the test of an obscure gem inheres in critical comparison. And relations never run one way. One may well harbor keener appreciation of Wallace Stevens in light of certain works by Corrine Frisch – just as Keats and Stevens mutually inform one another. The central tenet of this text holds, with Eliot and Frost – a not so unlikely coupling as might be thought, hence a perfect pair to introduce the author’s modus operandi – that we read relationally. “No artist . . . has his meaning alone.” “We read C the better to read D; D, the better to go back and get something more out of A. Progress is not the aim, but circulation: to get among the poems where they hold each other apart in their places as the stars do.”
Ethan Lewis has taught Modern and Renaissance Literature at the University of Illinois-Springfield, USA, for nineteen years, since receiving his doctorate from Boston College (where he also taught and earned his baccalaureate). His works include a collaboration with Robert McGregor, Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey (Kent State University Press, 2000), which garnered the Mystery Writers of America Award for finest critical monograph on an author in that genre; and Modernist Image (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), limning the respective development of Eliot and Pound from small experiments to triumphs in the long poem. Reflexive Poetics will, he hopes, be followed shortly by Shakespearean Negotiations: Matters of Character.
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