Book Review: Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense

A few years ago nearly everyone thought that poetry was finally dead, that the few remaining poets were living solitary lives as poetry presses shut down and poetry readers diminished. Then along comes  technology to the rescue: new printing technologies, vast social networking sites, poetry blogs, online publishers, and inexpensive personal web sites. Now new publishers and virtual communities of poets or other special interest groups bring more poems to more readers than could ever have been imagined. Much of the new poetry is wretched, but some is not. Poetry good and bad thrives.

No one can possibly keep up with so much poetry, at least no one without the leisure time, speed reading skills, and optimism of Stephen Burt. He wants Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (Graywolf Press, 2009) to promote lyric poetry, especially American poetry, by introducing his readers to a few dozen poets, and by offering a general guide to enjoying contemporary poetry.

My review for Cerise Press is online. You might want to read some of the poetry there, as the editors have selected works that are richly imagistic, melodic, and insightful. The Cerise Press review was republished in Powell Books’ “review-a- day” series for August 29, 2010.


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