A Coherent Splendor (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
One of the distinguishing strengths of great poetry is the singular voice of the individual poet. This daunting originality, however, often carries with it a sustaining conviction that only that poet’s approach to his work represents a valid vision of artistic excellence. To be sure, the poet frequently needs reassurance that his strategies for production are successful, yet when this understandably self-protective stance is combined with a critic’s instinctive tendency to establish patterns of consequence in any cultural era, a superficial depiction of literary history begins to develop in which differences are exaggerated and similarities are oversimplified.
In an exceptionally knowledgeable and wide-ranging study, Albert Gelpi has attempted to go beyond the limits of any previous grouping to include ten poets he regards as the creators of an “American poetic renaissance” in the years during and just after World War II, a time when the “great imaginative enterprise” (As Hugh Kenner describes Modernism) of the twentieth century was at its most energetic and vital. To include John Crowe Ransom and H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) in the same angle of vision requires a kind of confidence that stems from an acute understanding and familiarity with a vast body of material—cultural, political, philosophical, and historical as well as literary. Gelpi has the requisite background in the main currents of Western thought to be able to see unexpected patterns...
(The entire section is 2569 words.)
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