Now and Then (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Robert Penn Warren has been publishing books with great regularity for nearly half a century. In that circumstance, critics may grow suspicious or tired, wishing that the man were not so prolific. True, there are poems and stories, perhaps even novels, which could be dropped from the Warren canon without diminishing its importance; but it may be the very momentum of constant production that makes Warren’s good work so very good. In any case, he has emerged in the last decade or so as one of our major poets, which is to say that his poetry has steadily improved since 1957, when he won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Promises.
As a member of the Vanderbilt group of poets who learned their craft in the company of John Crowe Ransom, and as coauthor, with Cleanth Brooks, of the textbook which gave widest currency to the New Criticism, Warren has long understood how a poem can sometimes be more effective than other poems if it is noticeably an artifact. For a long time, his style has been easily recognized in a quatrain whose obtrusive rhymes and rugged meter somehow transcend mere obtrusiveness and ruggedness, and move toward rare authenticity, both as voice and as artifact. Here, for example, are the first eight lines of “Last Laugh,” from this new collection:
(The entire section is 1927 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Booklist. LXXV, September 1, 1978, p. 20.
Kirkus Reviews. XLVI, July 1, 1978, p. 744.
Library Journal. CIII, August, 1978, p. 1516.
New Republic. CLXXIX, September 30, 1978, p. 34.
Publisher’s Weekly. CCXIV, July 24, 1978, p. 85.
(The entire section is 25 words.)