Guilty Knowledge, Guilty Pleasure

The Dirty Art of Poetry

William Logan

Columbia University Press

Guilty Knowledge, Guilty Pleasure

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Pub Date: April 2014

ISBN: 9780231166867

344 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $50.00£40.00

Pub Date: April 2014

ISBN: 9780231537230

344 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $49.99£40.00

Guilty Knowledge, Guilty Pleasure

The Dirty Art of Poetry

William Logan

Columbia University Press

William Logan has been a thorn in the side of American poetry for more than three decades. Though he has been called the "most hated man in American poetry," his witty and articulate reviews have reminded us how muscular good reviewing can be. These new essays and reviews take poetry at its word, often finding in its hardest cases the greatest reasons for hope. Logan begins with a devastating polemic against the wish to have critics announce their aesthetics every time they begin a review. "The Unbearable Rightness of Criticism" is a plea to read those critics who got it wrong when they reviewed Lyrical Ballads or Leaves of Grass or The Waste Land. Sometimes, he argues, such critics saw exactly what these books were—they saw the poems plain yet often did not see that they were poems. In such wrongheaded criticism, readers can recover the ground broken by such groundbreaking books.

Logan looks again at the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Frank O'Hara, and Philip Larkin; at the letters of T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell; and at new books by Louise Glück and Seamus Heaney. Always eager to overturn settled judgments, Logan argues that World War II poets were in the end better than the much-lauded poets of World War I. He revisits the secretly revised edition of Robert Frost's notebooks, showing that the terrible errors ruining the first edition still exist. The most remarkable essay is "Elizabeth Bishop at Summer Camp," which prints for the first time her early adolescent verse along with the intimate letters written to the first girl she loved.
Want to know the state of contemporary poetry? Open this wonderful collection of criticism at any point and just start reading.... Logan's criticism is filled with both insight and delight, revealing him as our 21st-century Samuel Johnson. Library Journal (starred review)
[Logan's] sentences crackle with insight, intelligence, wit, and the despair of a prophet who sees the estate of poetry in ruins. Booklist
Rich, allusive, and pleasurable. Craig Morgan Teicher, Georgia Review
Those who aspire to the study or practice of 'our savage art' could do no better than read this and Logan's other collections; they are a masterclass in how to read. Duncan Wu, Times Higher Education
Infuriating and charming in turns, Logan--poet, critic, and reviewer of poetry--is never uninteresting.... Recommended. Choice
The "guilty pleasure" of reading these reviews is how well they are written, and how funny they often are. David Starkey, Santa Barbara Independent
Acknowledgments
Against Aesthetics
The Unbearable Rightness of Criticism
Verse Chronicle: Shock and Awe
Verse Chronicle: You Betcha!
The Sovereign Ghost of Wallace Stevens
Eliot in Ink
Larkin's Toads
Verse Chronicle: From Stinko to Devo
Verse Chronicle: Trampling Out the Vintage
Frost's Notebooks: A Disaster Revisited
Heaney's Chain
Heaney's Ghosts
Verse Chronicle: Weird Science
Verse Chronicle: Blah Blah Blah
World War II Poetry, Reloaded
Frank O'Hara's Shopping Bag
The Village of Louise Glück
Verse Chronicle: Civil Wars
Verse Chronicle: Guys and Dove
Nobody's Perfect: The Letters of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell
Elizabeth Bishop at the New Yorker
Elizabeth Bishop at Summer Camp
A Critic's Notebook
A List of Don'ts
Permissions
Books Under Review
Index of Authors Reviewed
Web Features:
  • Read William Logan's New York Time's op-ed Poetry: Who Needs It?
  • Listen to William Logan's interview on NPR on the fate of poetry in the twenty-first century

About the Author

William Logan is the author of ten volumes of poetry and five books of essays and reviews, including The Undiscovered Country, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Among his other honors are the Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle, the Corrington Medal for Literary Excellence, the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry, and the inaugural Randall Jarrell Award in Poetry Criticism. He teaches at the University of Florida, where he is Alumni/ae Professor of English and Distinguished Teaching-Scholar.