Edward Dorn Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Edward Dorn wrote one novel, The Rites of Passage: A Brief History (1965, revised as By the Sound in 1971) and one book of short stories, Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World (1971). In addition, he published numerous books of essays and translations.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Edward Dorn’s writing has been compared by critics to that of Walt Whitman for its joy in American themes, to that of Ernest Hemingway for its idiomatic speech, to that of Ezra Pound for its humor and erudition, and to that of Thomas Wolfe for its panoramic view. More accurate, however, are the criticisms claiming that his work defies paraphrasing and that his philosophy is likely to be different from that of his reader, who will emerge with a less inhibited and consequently more benevolent and tolerant view of the world. Dorn was called a “master of contemporary language,” and Gunslinger has been called a “masterpiece of contemporary poetry.”

Dorn taught at Idaho State University, at the University of Kansas, at Northeastern Illinois State University, at Kent State University, at the University of Essex (Colchester), at the University of California, Riverside and San Diego, and at Muir College. At the time of his death, he was an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado in Boulder and a director of the writing program. He was twice a Fulbright Lecturer in American literature at Essex; he received National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1966 and 1968, a fellowship from the University of New Mexico in 1969, and the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1980. He was poet-in-residence at the University of Alaska and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dorn read at the Folger Library; the Cambridge Poetry Festival; the University of Durham, England; King’s College (the University of London); and Westfield College. He gave the Olson lectures at the State University of New York in 1981.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Clark, Tom. Edward Dorn: A World of Difference. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 2002. A sympathetic biography by Dorn’s close friend, a fellow poet. Relies heavily on letters from family and friends and on Dorn’s work, both published and unpublished. Contains an epilogue—drawn from letters, journals, and poems—that describes Dorn’s losing fight with cancer.

Costello, James Thomas. “Edward Dorn: The Range of Poetry.” Dissertation Abstracts International 44 (July, 1983): 167A. This ambitious work examines Dorn’s poetry in relation to his contemporaries and the influence in his work of the American West, politics, the Plains Indians, and even theoretical physics. Many major ideas in modern American writing are identified and explored. The range of works cited spans The Newly Fallen to Yellow Lola.

Dorn, Edward. “An Interview with Edward Dorn.” Interview by Tandy Sturgeon. Contemporary Literature 27 (Spring, 1986): 1-17. In this compelling interview, Dorn discusses the difficulty of characterizing and judging the effects of political poetry. Dorn also explains his scorn for the flaccid academic tradition in writing and expresses his desire to invigorate the genre. This extensive and well-conducted interview offers an extraordinary glimpse into Dorn’s mind and art.


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