Amy Clampitt Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although Amy Clampitt is known primarily for her collections of poems, her first serious literary efforts took the form of fiction. Clampitt wrote two full-length novels in the 1950’s, although they remain unpublished. She did, however, produce some noteworthy critical work late in her career. Clampitt provided the introduction and selected the poems for Ecco Press’s The Essential Donne, published in 1988. Predecessors, Et Cetera: Essays, published by the University of Michigan Press in 1991, includes several of her essays on the aesthetics of writing and on seminal literary figures she found influential on her own work. Clampitt begins the book by posing the most fundamental of questions, “What do you need to know to be a writer?” She then uses this question as a springboard for a candid and remarkably lucid discussion of the ideas of literary figures as diverse as nineteenth century novelist Henry James and twentieth century eschatologist Hal Lindsey. In this way the essays of Predecessors, Et Cetera reflect the intellectual eclecticism that informs her most memorable poems.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Amy Clampitt graduated with honors from Grinnell College in Iowa in 1941, where she was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Her poetry began to gain significant attention relatively late in her life, but during roughly the last decade of her life, she received a number of important awards. In 1982, she received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and, in 1984, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Clampitt won an Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1985 and a three-year Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award in 1991. She became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1987 and served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1990 to 1994. She was also writer-in-residence at the College of William and Mary in 1984-1985, at Amherst College in 1986-1987, and at Smith College in 1992-1993.

She was named visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University in 1988. Clampitt’s first major collection, The Kingfisher, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 and was widely received by a number of major critics as one of the most important volumes of American poetry to appear in the 1980’s.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Boschman, Robert. In the Way of Nature: Ecology and Westward Expansion in the Poetry of Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Bishop, and Amy Clampitt. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2009. Looks at the themes of travel, geography, cartography, and wilderness in the poetry of Clampitt as well as in that of Anne Bradstreet and Elizabeth Bishop.

Clampitt, Amy. “Amy Clampitt: An Interview.” Interview by Laura Fairchild. American Poetry Review 16 (July/August, 1987): 17-20. In one of her few widely circulated interviews, Clampitt candidly discusses her poetry’s emphasis on sound, as well as the impact classic poets Gerard Manley Hopkins and Emily Dickinson have had on her work.

Morrisroe, Patricia. “The Prime of Amy Clampitt.” New York 17 (October 15, 1984): 44-48. Part interview and part critical analysis, Morrisroe’s article emphasizes the differences between Clampitt’s poetry and that of her most widely read contemporaries, “confessional” poets, such as Sylvia Plath.

Salter, Mary Jo. Introduction to The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt, by Amy Clampitt. New York: Knopf, 1997. One of the most illuminating and personal sketches of Clampitt available, Salter’s introduction to Clampitt’s posthumously published collected poems bristles with surprising and heretofore undocumented information and...

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