Baron Wormser Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Baron Wormser (WURM-sur) has written essays and book reviews for various literary magazines. Two important book reviews, extensive analyses of the works of Polish poets Adam Zagajewski and Czesaw Miosz, reveal Wormser’s extraordinary knowledge of Western poetry, history, and culture. He has published essays concerning William Blake, the spirit of poetry in a democracy, and the necessity of religious poetry in our time. In 2000, he melded his vast wisdom about poetry with his love of teaching into a book, written with David Cappella, titled Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves. His memoir of his years in rural Maine, The Road Washes Out in Spring: A Poet’s Memoir of Living Off The Grid, appeared in 2006. Wormser published The Poetry Life: Ten Stories (2008), a book of ten short fictional narratives about poets from Blake in the eighteenth century to Sylvia Plath and Joe Bolton in the late twentieth century and how their work figured in the lives of imagined characters. The range of poets addressed—from formalists such as Weldon Kees to Beat poets such as Gregory Corso—helps Wormser imagine the significance of poetry in people’s personal triumphs and struggles. The Poetry Life is vital for understanding Wormser’s vision of what poetry is and can be.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Baron Wormser started gaining critical stature in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as evidenced by the honors he accrued during these decades. In 1982, he won the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, and in 1996, he won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. In 2000, he was appointed Maine’s poet laureate, a position in which he served until 2005. He also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in literary magazines such as Paris Review, Sewanee Review, Harper’s, The New Republic, and Poetry.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Birkerts, Sven. The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry. New York: William Morrow, 1989. This wide-ranging book includes a condensed discussion of Wormser, connecting the poet’s sense of place and occasion with his ability to enlarge on the particular. A solid overview of the poet that hints at his larger, spiritual themes and the complex subtleties of his thinking process.

Boruch, Marianne. “Comment: The Feel of a Century.” American Poetry Review 19 (July/August, 1990): 18-19. Included in this lengthy review of several poets is a discussion of Wormser’s Atoms, Soul Music, and Other Poems. Despite the brief treatment of the book, two major points are made about his long poem “Atoms”: that it tackles American culture and that it exemplifies the poet’s attempt to capture the private and specific in a public manner.

Briggs, Edwin. “Poet Shapes an Image That’s Fresh and True.” Review of The White Words. The Boston Globe, May 29, 1983, p. D3. This review gives a succinct account of Wormser’s attitude toward language and of his use of tone and images to control the subject matter. It is an insightful glimpse into the poet’s stance.

Finch, Robert. “’Living Inside a Poem’: A Meditation About Twenty Years in the Maine Woods, Thinking Deliberately, Working Creatively.” Boston Globe, November 19, 2006, p. R6. Underlines important similarities and differences between Wormser’s valuation of the land and the simple life described by earlier American writers, especially Henry David Thoreau.

Johnson, Greg. “Essential Themes: Elegant Variations.” Georgia Review 67, no. 9 (Summer, 2009): 336-344. Discusses The Poetry Life, critiquing what Johnson sees as its overly essayistic quality but also conceding that this was perhaps necessary to bring home Wormser’s ideas about how poetry actually mattered to people.

Mesic, Penelope. Review of The White Words. Poetry 144 (February, 1984): 302-303. In a balanced look at the poet’s first book, this terse yet praiseworthy review commends the poet’s wit, technical skill, and use of details.

Wormser, Baron. “Populous Worlds of a Quiet Laureate.” Interview by Sally Read. South Dakota Review 39, no. 2 (Summer, 2001): 121-122. This interview conducted during Wormser’s tenure as a visiting professor at the University of South Dakota is a crucial one for understanding issues of voice, tone, and reference in Wormser’s oeuvre.