Words to Create a World

A volume in the notable Poets on Poetry series, which has published numerous important collections of essays by and interviews with contemporary American poets, WORDS TO CREATE A WORLD offers a broad and accessible perspective on modern poetry. As a poet and an academic, Daniel Hoffman is doubly qualified to survey the aspirations and achievements of the poet in the twentieth century, and the essays and reviews collected here constitute a brief but insightful overview of American poetry in particular. Important poets discussed include W.H. Auden, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. Among the more contemporary, eminent poets evaluated are A.R. Ammons, Anthony Hecht, James Merrill, and James Wright.

An overall context for the author’s approach is provided by a wide-ranging introductory essay on the fate of poetry in the present age. Its concerns with form and value, and the relationship between the two, recur not only throughout the collection of reviews which make up the first part of WORDS TO CREATE A WORLD but also in the essays and interviews which make up the volume’s other two parts. The five essays establish Hoffman’s concerns with history and language, while the interviews provide fascinating details of the origins of these concerns and the responsibilities they incur. The interviews also provide much information of interest to the literary historian. The volume concludes with a provocative examination of developments in poetry during the 1980’s, notably the work of the New Formalists, the Language poets, and the poetry of John Ashbery. This final essay consolidates the scope and interest of both WORDS TO CREATE A WORLD and Daniel Hoffman’s commitments.