L. E. Sissman Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

The “Innocent Bystander” columns by L. E. Sissman (SIHS-mahn) from The Atlantic Monthly were collected and published as Innocent Bystander: The Scene from the ’70’s in 1975.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

L. E. Sissman garnered significant recognition in his tragically short career: a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968, followed in 1969 by an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1971, he was asked to be Phi Beta Kappa Poet for Harvard University.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Davison, Peter. The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, 1955-1960 from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath. New York: Knopf, 1994. Davison writes of the personal lives and struggles of poets he knew, including Sissman, whose collection he edited.

Eder, Richard. “The Suburbs of Parnassus.” Review of Night Music. The New York Times Book Review, August 15, 1999, 31. The reviewer finds the work to be of uneven quality but praises Sissman’s craftmanship and notes that he explored a “middle range of accessible experience.”

Gunton, Sharon R., ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981. The entry on Sissman notes that in an era of experimentation, he “clung to stanzaic verse, the iambic foot, couplets, and sonnets.”

Kennedy, X. J. “Innocence in Armor.” Review of Hello, Darkness and Innocent Bystander. Parnassus: Poetry in Review 8 (Fall/Winter, 1979): 48-63. Reviews Hello, Darkness and Innocent Bystander. Also discusses Sissman’s “other” life as an advertising executive and how this counted against him as a poet. By and large a sympathetic review that sees Sissman’s strength in the narrative poem, it calls his poem “Cancer: A Dream” harrowing in its description of hospitals and praises it for its...

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