An illuminating look at the many forms of poetry’s essential excellence by James Longenbach, a writer with “an ear as subtle and assured as any American poet now writing”—John Koethe
The Virtues of Poetry
- “Predicated on the simple and elegant thesis that good poetry transcends trends, [The Virtues of Poetry] points to paired poetic ‘virtues’ . . . and then shows how they work in harmony to make great poetry sing.”—NPR
The Virtues of Poetry is a resplendent and ultimately moving work of twelve interconnected essays, each of which describes the way in which a particular excellence is enacted in poetry. James Longenbach closely reads poems by Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Keats, Dickinson, Yeats, Pound, Bishop, and Ashbery (among others), sometimes exploring the ways in which these writers transmuted the material of their lives into art and always emphasizing that the notions of excellence we derive from art are fluid, never fixed. Provocative, funny, and astute, The Virtues of Poetry is indispensable for readers, teachers, and writers. Longenbach reminds us that poetry delivers meaning in exacting ways, and that it is through its precision that we experience this art’s lasting virtues.
- “Longenbach introduces not just great writers, but ways to think about them, ways to see how their works confront death, pursue self-doubt, and overcome their own initial limits.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
- “These essays are, by turns, beautiful, witty and wise and in the end they’ll (hopefully) leave you better equipped to experience and enjoy great poems.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
- “James Longenbach is one of the finest scholar-critics working today. . . . The Virtues of Poetry examines ‘the virtues to which the next poem might aspire,’ which will obviously get the attention of poets but should also appeal to general readers.”—David Orr, The New York Times Book Review
- “Longenbach keeps faith with the mystery at the heart of poems as well as the intellect’s attempts to pierce it.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer