Brad Leithauser Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Brad Leithauser (LEET-how-zur) demonstrates an equal facility with poetry and fiction, alternating between writing novels and collections of poems. His novels are splendidly unpredictable. Equal Distance: A Novel (1985) is based on his stint as a research fellow at the Kyoto Comparative Law Center and is evidently autobiographical. Hence: A Novel (1989) pits a geeky chess player against a supercomputer. Seaward: A Novel (1993) is a combination detective story and paranormal romance. The Friends of Freeland (1997) is a re-creation of Iceland and the Nordic world, comical and serious by turns, based on Leithauser’s experiences living in Reykjavik, Iceland, as a Fulbright lecturer. A Few Corrections: A Novel (2001) provides the essential emendations and additions to the obituary of a handsome, midwestern failure. Darlington’s Fall, a novel in verse, describes the aborted career of a promising entomologist, a remote relative of Leithauser.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Brad Leithauser’s gifts were recognized early. He has received many awards: the Lloyd McKim Garrison Prize (twice) for the best poem as a undergraduate at Harvard College, an Ingram Merrill Fellowship (1981), an Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship (1982), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1982), a MacArthur Fellowship (1983-1988), the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets (1983), the Eunice Tietjens Prize from Poetry magazine (1998), and the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship from Mount Holyoke College (2003). In 2005, he was inducted by the president of Iceland into the Order of the Falcon for his writings about the area. He served as a theater critic for Time in 1995. The external signs of Leithauser’s achievement only hint at the originality of his works; the daring of his imagination; his unflagging technical virtuosity; his facility with language, foreign and native; and the power and depth of his mind that make it easy for him to acquire expertise in such areas as political and cultural history, computerized chess, paranormal psychology, geology, physics, bacteriology, entomology, evolutionary biology, astronomy, and cosmology.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Barron, Jonathan, and Bruce Meyer. Introduction to New Formalist Poets. Vol. 282 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Introduction to the movement of which Leithauser was an early exemplar.

Gioia, Dana. Can Poetry Matter? Essays on Poetry and American Culture. Rev. ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Greywolf Press, 2002. Originally published in 1992, this volume of essays contains an essay on New Formalism.

Leithauser, Brad. “The Confinement of Free Verse.” New Criterion 5 (May, 1987): 4-14. Continues and develops the argument central to Leithauser’s poetry.

_______. “Metrical Illiteracy.” New Criterion 1 (January, 1983): 41-46. Argues against free verse, saying it is a tradition that has become exhausted as a vehicle of expression.

Schneider, Steven P. “Brad Leithauser.” In New Formalist Poets, edited by Jonathan N. Barron and Bruce Meyer. Vol. 282 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Excellent critical survey of Leithauser’s work, although there is no discussion of Darlington’s Fall.