Alfred Corn Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to collections of poetry, Alfred Corn published The Metamorphoses of Metaphor: Essays in Poetry and Fiction (1987), which argued the influence of Dante and the French Symbolist movement on a wide variety of writers, most notably Wallace Stevens and Marcel Proust; his best-selling handbook The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody (1997) critiqued the nature of poetic rhythms. Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007 (2008) brought together two decades of Corn’s critical essays on music, art, theater, and literature. Corn also published Part of His Story (1997), a novel in which a gay writer, after the death of his longtime companion from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), moves to London and becomes involved in the underground movement for Irish independence. Corn, whose renewed faith in Christianity informs his poetry, edited a collection of nonscholarly reflections on the continuing relevance of the New Testament, Incarnation: Contemporary Writers on the New Testament (1990).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

As one of the New Formalists, post-World War II university poets who returned to the traditional conventions of rhythm and rhyme, Alfred Corn suffused his experiences, most notably his coming into his sexual identity, with his meditative sensibility to create verse that is both autobiographical and profoundly visionary. Early on, his poems attracted both critical praise and distinguished awards; he was recognized with the George Dillon Prize (1975), the Oscar Blumenthal Prize (1977), and the Levinson Prize (1982), each awarded by the influential journal Poetry. In 1982, Corn was given the Gustav Davidson Prize from New York’s Poetry Society of America, the country’s oldest foundation dedicated to promoting poetry. He received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983 and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1987. Corn traveled to France on a Fulbright Scholarship and has received numerous fellowships and grants, most notably from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center (Bellagio, Italy). A longtime faculty member of the graduate writing program at Columbia, Corn has held appointments with several prestigious writing programs at educational institutions including Yale University, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2004, he accepted the one-year Amy Clampitt Residency in Lenox, Massachusetts, an award given annually to an accomplished poet to provide time and resources for developing new projects in the poetic arts.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Abowitz, Richard. “The Traveler: On the Poetry of Alfred Corn.” Kenyon Review 15, no. 4 (1993): 204-217. Perceptive analysis of Corn’s verse that includes analysis of his formal achievement. Develops Corn’s theme of exploration/travel.

Barber, David. “Contradictions: Poems.” Review of Contradictions. The New York Times Book Review, January 26, 2003, p. 24. The reviewer finds the poems well structured and expressive, tinged with melancholy.

Barron, Jonathan N., and Bruce Meyer, eds. New Formalist Poets. Vol. 282 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Contains a biographical essay on Corn that examines his life and writings.

Corn, Alfred. “Alfred Corn.” Interview by Christopher Hennessy. In Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets, edited by Hennessy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. In this insightful interview, Corn looks at his personal history and how it influences his poetry.

_______. “Alfred Corn’s Web Blog.” http:// alfredcorn Corn’s blog. Regular updates illuminate his theories on poetry, art, academics, and his relationship with readers.

Disch, Thomas. “Alfred Corn’s Present: A Review.” Boston Review (December, 1997-January, 1998). A broad-reaching review that uses Present as an occasion to consider Corn’s development of voices and his interest in art and music.

Martin, Robert K. The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry. Rev. ed. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998. Originally published in 1979, this groundbreaking examination of gay poetry creates a necessary context for approaching Corn. It places Corn among the visionary gay poets Whitman and Crane.

Vincent, John Emil. Queer Lyrics: Difficulty and Closure in American Poetry. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Important examination of Corn’s generation of gay poets that links their themes and their formal techniques with earlier generations. Includes discussion of the impact of AIDS.