The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath,

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9780679406587: The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath,

"A beautiful and richly instructive book, a worthy and welcome sequel to Eileen Simpson's Poets in Their Youth."

Louis S. Auchincloss

An intimately perceptive account, by a poet who knew them all, of the brilliant circle of poets who lived and worked in Boston through the half-decade beginning in 1955. That was the year Peter Davison, coming to Boston as a book editor. was swept up in a world -- in a tumult -- of poetry. He rediscovered his father's old friend Robert Frost. He briefly squired Sylvia Plath. He came to know Robert Lowell (whose poems and private disasters dominated the period) and Adrienne Rich, Stanley Kunitz, Richard Wilbur. Anne Sexton, W. S. Merwin, and others who, closely bound together in friendship or rivalry or both, defined the shape of American poetry at mid-century Through their eves as well as his own, and often in their words, Davison presents a sharply fresh vision of the shift from confidence to a troubled questioning that overtook America -- a transformation that was, in a sense, foreshadowed in the sensibilities, in the writings, sometimes in the lives, of some of our finest poets.

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From the Back Cover:

Robert Frost: "Robert Frost's company was a classroom. His monologue drawled on for hours at a time, his open palm gesturing in the air like a conductor beating time, his extraordinarily expressive face, seamed with the channels of age, glowing with the amusement his words gave him, and his mind flickering into an entity that resembled something very like a poem."

Robert Lowell: "Robert Lowell's unmistakable voice -- weary, nasal, hesitant, whining, mumbling, a curiously hybrid blend of Yankee and Confederate intonations that descended from both family and literary sources -- seems in retrospect to dominate the poetic harmony of the late 1950s in Boston."

Ted Hughes And Sylvia Plath: "Ted and Sylvia were invited to dinner, with a copy of the June Atlantic Monthly (containing poems by Adrienne Rich and myself) on the table, and the evening, I thought in my innocence, was cheery, full of laughter and Ted's good humor. But Sylvia's unpublished journal had other observations to make, based on other feelings."

Anne Sexton: "Sexton, who smoked continuously, struck a match and seared her hand with a fragment of phosphorus. For the next two hours her pain was a presence in the room: her hand was immersed in a plastic bag full of ice water, her ululations rose and fell. The guests tried to speak of other things, but it proved impossible: it was the pain that governed."

Stanley Kunitz: "Kunitz in those days seemed a little distant, with his European moustache, carrying his head with his prominent nose held high, and his lithe, almost athletic walk. He became, in his great old age, a better-looking man than in his middle years, as though the changes in his soul had tailored his body for a better fit."

Adrienne Rich: "Pixyish and charming, witty in person as her written work seldom is, she was clearly as glad as anyone to be admired, but she was holding something back. When I praised her work she looked at me quizzically, as though there were something she (or I) did not understand."

About the Author:

Peter Davison has hart a long and distinguished career as a poet and as a book publisher. He was born in New York and raised in Colorado, and attended Harvard and Cambridge universities. He became an editor in book publishing at twenty-two; from 1956 to 1985 he edited books for the Atlantic Monthly Press and now does so for his own imprint at Houghton Mifflin Company. He is poetry editor for The Atlantic Monthly. His first book of poems won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1963, and since then he has published eight additional volumes, including The Great Ledge (1989). He lives in Boston and is married to the architect Joan Edelman Goody.

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