Albert Goldbarth Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Albert Goldbarth brings the qualities of his poetry—reflective, poignant, both broadly philosophical and specifically autobiographical, cyclical-spiral and associational in form, well-versed in popular culture, and learned in the physical, biological, and social sciences—to his essays, which individually have won awards, as have his poems. His essay collections include A Sympathy of Souls: Essays (1990), Great Topics of the World: Essays (1994), Dark Waves and Light Matter: Essays (1999), Many Circles: New and Selected Essays (2001), and Griffin (2007). Pieces of Payne, a novel, was published in 2003.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Albert Goldbarth received many literary prizes for his poetry. He won the Theodore Roethke Prize (1971) and the Richard Hugo Prize (1989), both from Poetry Northwest; National Book Critics Circle Awards for Heaven and Earth and for Saving Lives (1991 and 2001, respectively); the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine (2005); and the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award from Binghamton University (2008) for The Kitchen Sink. He was nominated for the National Book Award for Jan. 31. He received ten Pushcart Prizes from 1984 to 2007. Almost as important as his prizes is his representation in anthologies and standard reference works. His poetry is included in the prestigious anthologies The Generation of 2000: Contemporary American Poets (1984), The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets (1985), Strong Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Forms (1986), New American Poets of the90’s (1991), Telling and Remembering: A Century of American Jewish Poetry (1997), Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary, and Reflections (2000), and American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (2009). His poems were included in Best American Poetry in 1993, 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2009.

Also, in a twenty-first century parallel with Christopher Marlowe’s celebrated sixteenth century poem “A Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” which has evoked several reply poems in literary history, Goldbarth’s evocative, Whitmanesque, and lengthy catalog of his personal responses to and ruminations about a host of books in his poem “A Library” (2001) has elicited several response sites on the Internet.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Altieri, Charles. Self and Sensibility in Contemporary American Poetry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Contains an analysis of Goldbarth’s “Song in One Serving” as poetry that combines a sense of lyric scene, as well as self-consciousness, plus Goldbarth’s management of connections within the work.

Baker, David. Heresy and the Ideal: On Contemporary Poetry. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000. Chapter 3, “Culture, Inclusion, Craft: On Albert Goldbarth, Jane Kenyon, Li-Young Lee, Wayne Koestenbaum, David Wojahn, Alice Fulton,” aligns Goldbarth with this group; chapter 16, “Hieroglyphs of Erasure: Albert Goldbarth,” argues that despite the apparent packing of Goldbarth’s poetry with philosophy, information, and details, its ultimate meaning is the erasure of these items.

Barron, Jonathan N. “Albert Goldbarth.” In American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies— Supplement Twelve—Kathy Acker to Richard Russo, edited by Jay Parini. New York: Scribner’s, 2003. Contains a basic biography and analysis of Goldbarth’s work.

Corey, Stephen. “Typewriter and Looney-Tune Lunchbox in the Two Hands of God: Albert Goldbarth, Always Armed and at the Ready.” Georgia Review 63, no. 4 (Winter, 2009): 551. Corey praises Goldbarth’s poems, saying his ability to mix tones, subjects, and emotions is unsurpassed among modern poets.

Keller, Lynn. “The Twentieth-Century Long Poem.” In The Columbia History of American Poetry, edited by Jay Parini and Brett Miller. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Uses Goldbarth’s “novel/poem” Different Fleshes to exemplify the modern poet’s use of varied lyric sequences in “nonlinear explorations of imagined history” in an extended-length poem.

Logan, William. Reputations of the Tongue: On Poets and Poetry. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999. Chapter 9, “Chronicle at Home and Abroad,” examines Original Light: “Many poets know one big thing, but Albert Goldbarth knows many little things.”

Vendler, Helen. Soul Says: On Recent Poetry. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995. Chapter 8, “Imagination Pressing Back: Frank Bidart, Albert Goldbarth, and Amy Clampitt,” stresses the accomplishment of the faculty of imagination in these poets, and Goldbarth’s omnivorous inclusion of history, details, and various branches of knowledge in his poetry.