Wilbur's Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time

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9781558497740: Wilbur's Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time

Poet laureate of the United States, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, chancellor of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, recipient of the Bollingen Prize, the Prix de Rome, and many other major honors, Richard Wilbur has been a central figure in American literature since World War II. Yet commentary about his poetry has been sparse. In this book, Bruce Michelson brings to Wilbur's achievement the close critical attention it deserves.

The first extended study of Wilbur's work in twenty-five years, Wilbur's Poetry explores the light poems, the darker mediations, the brilliant translations of Moliere and Racine, as well as the risks Wilbur has taken as an artist. There are chapters on Wilbur's unique use of language and his response to a vast poetic heritage, on form and closure and their thematic implications, and of Wilbur's place as a poet in a complex and "scattering" time.

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About the Author:

Bruce Michelson is associate professor of English at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Review:

"We have been waiting for Wilbur's poetry to receive its due in the form of an extended critical commentary. Michelson's book is such a commentary, highly sympathetic to the poems yet willing to ask hard questions. It's especially valuable for the way it places Wilbur in the landscape of American poets, from Whitman and Poe to Frost, Williams, Lowell, and Bishop. To write well about Wilbur's subtle art, the critic needs a distinctive style. Michelson's is agile, urbane, and satisfyingly complicated. A deft piece of literary appreciation and analysis."―William Pritchard, Amherst College

"This book has held my attention and earned my admiration. . . . It could well inaugurate a reevaluation of Wilbur's poetry, for it effectively challenges the shallow preconceptions which have deterred critics from addressing his complexities. Michelson himself respects complexity, and it is a virtue of his work that it does not oversimplify. His readings of poems, even when provocative, do not seem willfully forced. He demonstrates the presence of metaphysical uncertainties in Wilbur where many would not have thought to find them, but the poet who emerges from the study is still eminently recognizable as himself. What is stripped away is the patina of critical stereotypes which has so long adhered to his image."―Robert B. Shaw, Mount Holyoke College

"Through a series of astute close readings of selected poems, Michelson offers convincing evidence that Wilbur is indeed a 'darker, more complex, passionate, and original poet' than he is given credit for. . . . The reader's attention is focused on the poet's craft, his keen wordplay, stylistic versatility, and psychological depth."―Library Journal

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