Resurgence of Traditional Poetic Form and the Current Status of Poetry’s Place in American Culture

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This study focuses on a movement called ‘constructive postmodernism’ which, in the work of such theorists as Frederick Turner, has helped to chart new directions for literary theory past the fragmentary impasses of deconstruction, identity politics, and cultural studies. It develops alternative readings of such poets as Wallace Stevens, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E. E. Cummings, James Wright, Hayden Carruth, Rita Dove, John Haines, Judson Jerome, and Sam Hamill. The book also raises questions about the status of poetry in contemporary American culture, particularly its relationship with the university.


"Walzer is the author of The Ghost of Tradition: Expansive Poetry and Postmodernism (CH, Jul'99), the editor (with Kevin Bezner) of The Wilderness of Vision: On the poetry of John Haines (1996), and a published poet himself (Living in Cincinnati, 1995). Divided into two parts--the "culture of poetic forms" and the "forms of poetic culture"--the present collection of 14 wide-ranging essays continues Walzer's exploration of the resurgence of traditional verse forms and especially the rise of new formalism. Walzer discusses numerous poets--including Cummings, Millay, Stevens, James Weight, Hayden Carruth, Rita Dove, John Haines, and even Judson Jerome (poetry columnist for Writer's Digest). The conceptual model he uses to orient his discussion derives from the conservative work of David Ray Griffin (God and Religion in the Postmodern World, CH, Jun'89), especially his concept of "constructive postmodernism" (an attempt to revalorize the relationship between language and foundationalism), and the work of Frederick Turner, in particular his optimistic version of constructive postmodernism, "natural classicism." Recommended for libraries intent on comprehensive collections of criticism of late 20th-century American poetry and its internal debates." - CHOICE

“The highly-charged debate over the impact of traditional poetic forms on postmodern poetry, as well as the impact on this confluence has make on the current poetry scene, is now absolutely clear. Kevin Walzer’s new book . . . raises the stakes on the debate. But better yet, his book ushers in a new way of considering modern poetry’s influence on radical contemporary poets such as Hayden Carruth, Molly Peacock, Sam Hamill, and Edward Dorn, among many others – poets whose seemingly elusive poems often succeed because they brilliantly manipulate traditional forms to meet their radical visions. Walzer not only examines how these deeper aesthetic connections are made by these poets, but he successfully argues that the liberal use of forms by many poets deemed ‘postmodern’, or expansive, cannot be dismissed by literary critics any longer.” – Jeff Hillard

“. . . a watershed both in literary criticism and in Walzer’s own career. Walzer, who has broken with the pattern of his largely visually minded generation, is one of a new generation of younger critics – Michael Berube and Annie Finch are only two examples – poised to become the dominant voices of the 21st century. . . he has assembled a wide collection of essays, public expressions, that demonstrates his skill as both an analyst of poems and literary trends. . . . further established himself as both an important contributor to the literary history of the 1980s and 1990s and as a critic and champion of poets outside the academic model promulgated by Associated Writing Programs.” – Kevin Bezner

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Preface; Introduction
The Culture of Poetic Forms
1. The Culture of Poetic Forms: Natural Classicism and Constructive Postmodernism
2. Modernism and Natural Classicism: Cummings, Millay, Stevens
3. Prose on Prosody
4. The Ohio Review and the Wars Over Poetic Form
5. Poetical Correctness: James Wright’s Formal Practices
6. The Greatest Range: On Hayden Carruth
7. Michael J. Bugeja and Expansive Poetry’s Potential
The Forms of Poetic Culture
8. The Forms of Poetic Culture
9. Poetry and American Culture: The Case of Judson Jerome
10. Poetry Criticism: In Critical Condition?
11. Rita Dove’s Ascent
12. A Radical Classicist: The Poetry of Sam Hamill
13. An Elegist’s Dreams: On John Haines
14. The Downsizing of Poetry
Bibliography; Index

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