After the Death of Poetry

Poet and Audience in Contemporary America

After the Death of Poetry

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: Published: April 1993

Author: Vernon Shetley

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In this deft analysis, Vernon Shetley shows how writers and readers of poetry, operating under very different conventions and expectations, have drifted apart, stranding the once-vital poetic enterprise on the distant margins of contemporary culture. Along with a clear understanding of where American poetry stands and how it got there, After the Death of Poetry offers a compelling set of prescriptions for its future, prescriptions that might enable the art to regain its lost stature in our intellectual life.
In exemplary case studies, Shetley identifies the very different ways in which three postwar poets—Elizabeth Bishop, James Merrill, and John Ashbery—try to restore some of the challenge and risk that characterized modernist poetry's relation to its first readers. Sure to be controversial, this cogent analysis offers poets and readers a clear sense of direction and purpose, and so, the hope of reaching each other again.


“Vernon Shetley’s book makes a tactful diagnosis of contemporary poetry and a daring prescription for curing an ailing patient. It combines a close look at how poems operate with a sensitivity to the changing within an individual poet’s work and a sophisticated sense of the varieties of recent literary theory. . . . Shetley proves himself a fine reader of individual poems and poets. . . . The work is engaging and energetic from start to finish.” — Willard Spiegelman , American Literature

"After the Death of Poetry is a superbly written, carefully argued, and very timely analysis of the situation of poetry. Mr. Shetley is one of the most intelligent, imaginative, and erudite critics of contemporary poetry that we have. He combines, as so few critics do, an exquisite sensitivity to literary style with a theoretically toughened and historically grounded understanding of the place of poetry in relation to the general culture." — Alan Shapiro, author of Covenant

"Shetley reveals himself as the most powerful new voice in the criticism of poetry. He writes with enormous confidence, skill, and nuance. The audience for this work will be those who ponder the question of poetry's place in America's culture, those interested in the three poets studied here, as well as those concerned with current cultural debate." — Helen Vendler, Harvard University


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Price: $25.95

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