John Hollander Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

John Hollander has edited several anthologies, including Selected Poems of Ben Jonson (1961), The Oxford Anthology of English Literature (1973; with Frank Kermode), and The Essential Rossetti (1989). Among his well-regarded books of literary criticism are The Untuning of the Sky: Ideas of Music in English Poetry, 1500-1700 (1961), Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form (1975), and The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After (1981). Hollander has also written or edited several books for younger people, such as The Wind and the Rain: An Anthology of Poems for Young People (1961, with Bloom), A Book of Various Owls, and The Quest of the Gole.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

John Hollander is a scholar, professor, editor, and formalist poet who frequently combines the rigors of traditional meter and rhyme with far-ranging topics and imaginative energy. Hollander’s interdisciplinary learning permits him to conjure up a host of allusions from philosophy, mathematics, music, science, religion, and the visual arts in his poetry. With his superb command of poetic tradition from ancient Greece to T. S. Eliot, Hollander builds on existing forms and reinterprets them for the contemporary reader.

His first book of poems, A Crackling of Thorns, was chosen by W. H. Auden as the 1958 entry in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Among Hollander’s outstanding achievements are the Poetry Chap-Book Award in 1962 for The Untuning of the Sky, a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant for creative work in literature in 1963, the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine in 1974, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, the Bollingen Prize (with Anthony Hecht) in 1983, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990, an Ambassador Book Award in 1994, the Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award in 1997, the Philolexian Prize for Distinguished Literary Achievement in 2002, the Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Prize in 2006, and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2007. His work teaching was recognized with the Clyde DeVane Award from the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 2007. He was appointed poet laureate of Connecticut for a five-year term in 2006, but he resigned in 2009. He became a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979 and served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1981-1999. Among the magazines and journals that have published Hollander’s verse are The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, Poetry, The Times Literary Supplement, and Harper’s.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bromwich, David. “Self-Deception and Self-Knowledge in John Hollander’s Poetry.” Southwest Review (Spring/Summer, 2001): 246. Perceptive comments on Hollander’s approach to his subjects.

Grossberg, Benjamin S. Review of A Draft of Light. Antioch Review 667, no. 1 (Winter, 2009): 191-193. Examines Hollander’s rumination on advancing age, finding it a “complex experience, grim wisdom leavened by liveliness and very fine music.”

Hollander, John. “A Conversation with John Hollander.” Interview by Paul Devlin. St. John’s University Humanities Review 1, no. 2 (April, 2003). Very wide-ranging discussion of Hollander’s views not only on his own work but also on that of others.

_______. “John Hollander.” Interview by William Baer. In Fourteen on Form: Conversations with Poets, edited by Baer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. Hollander discusses poetic form, influences on his poetry, and his development as a poet.

McClatchy, J. D. “The Fall Guy.” The New Republic 196 (February 9, 1987): 44-46. A discussion of In Time and Place with an excellent survey of the range of response to Hollander’s books throughout his career. Hollander has been misunderstood or ignored by most critics, according to McClatchy.

Muriatori, Fred. Review of Picture Window. Library Journal 128, no. 9 (May 15, 2003): 93. Remarks on the continuation of Hollander’s playful, punning style.

Pettingell, Phoebe. “Hollander’s Poetic Playfulness.” The New Leader 82, no. 4 (April 5, 1999): 15-16. Pettingell discusses poet Hollander’s poetic playfulness and how it illuminates the brave pathos of human endeavor.

Seaman, Donna. Review of Picture Window. Booklist 99, no. 18 (May 15, 2003): 1633. Notes how the collection examines human perception and self-infatuation in “cleverly constructed and philosophically agile” poems.

Warren, Rosanna. “Night Thoughts and Figurehead.” Review of Figurehead, and Other Poems. Raritan 20, no. 2 (Fall, 2000): 11-24. Warren demonstrates how this collection extends and complicates the poetic devices and themes Hollander used in Movie-going, and Other Poems.

Wood, Michael. “Calculated Risks.” Review of Spectral Emanations. The New York Review of Books, June 1, 1978, 27-30. Wood argues that Hollander’s poetry tends toward imitation and artifice without underlying meaning. Although he is extremely talented, says Wood, Hollander’s skills overshadow his actual achievement.