Brendan Galvin has written critical articles on Theodore Roethke, a number of reviews, and the controversial essay “The Mumbling of Young Werther: Angst by Blueprint in Contemporary Poetry” (published in Ploughshares in 1978). He has also published several short stories. His translation of Women of Trachis by Sophocles appeared in 1998.
In Brendan Galvin’s work, a hard-won accuracy of statement and description stands in place of fashionable “poetic” ambiguities. His writing makes that of most other poets seem sloppy and vague. Galvin wrestles a clarity from language that makes attempts to paraphrase his lines not only futile but also ridiculous. The experience of his poetry is in the language; the experience is the language. Fresh diction and imagery are his hallmark, as are highly imaginative yet precisely appropriate figures of speech.
Galvin has refined his gift for language in many ways. Denotative accuracy and connotative subtlety are reinforced by his finely tuned sense of rhythm and sound. His lines break cleanly, splitting where meaning divides or where hesitation is a necessary part of the reader’s experience. Almost every feature of Galvin’s craft is functional. In his disciplined poems, “free verse” is a solved riddle. Galvin has known what to do with this freedom; there is little chance of mistaking his work for prose broken up into lines.
Galvin seems to have a special territory that he has made his own and in which he has no rival among his contemporaries. His ability to bring his gifts to bear on rendering a close look at a particular object, especially a natural object (or process), is unparalleled in his time. He has fashioned a distinct poetic idiom, alternately tart and tender, for this task of giving his readers a new chance to see the...
Barber, David. “Natural Wonder.” Boston Globe, December 14, 2008. Includes a good synopsis of Galvin’s later poems.
Callahan, Mary. “Singing What’s Out There.” Boston College Magazine 47 (Winter, 1988): 37-41. This personality profile offers material on Galvin’s schooling, his work habits, and his inspirations and prejudices. Galvin admits proudly to consulting reference books to indulge his passion for accuracy. He believes in a poet’s need for obsessions. Galvin’s own “How I Wrote It” follows, with commentaries on the creative process behind four of his poems.
Christina, Martha, ed. Outer Life: The Poetry of Brendan Galvin. Bristol, R.I.: Ampersand Press, 1991. This first collection of essays on Galvin’s work is remarkable for the high standard of critical prose and critical insight. Contributors include Thomas Reiter (on Wampanoag Traveler), Peter Makuck, and Neal Bowers. The latter’s “Outside In: Brendan Galvin’s Poetry” views Galvin’s work as a precursor to the New Formalism in its attempt to avoid “an absurd self-involvement.” Bowers uses New England countryman Robert Frost as a foil to highlight Galvin’s temperament and method.
Collins, Floyd. “The Image in Recent American Poetry.” Gettysburg Review 3, no. 4 (Autumn, 1990): 686-704. Places Galvin’s work within the...