Linda Pastan Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Linda Pastan (PA-stahn) is known only for her poetry. However, she has written an autobiographical essay, “Roots,” which appeared in American Poets in 1976 (1976), a volume edited by William Heyen.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Since the appearance of Linda Pastan’s first book, critics have praised the lucidity of her language, the freshness of her metaphors, and the consistency of her accomplishment. She has been appreciated as an artist of what she herself calls “dailiness”—contemporary domestic life. She has won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Maryland Arts Council grant. Her literary awards include Mademoiselle’s Dylan Thomas Poetry Award, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, the Bess Hokin Prize (1985), and the Maurice English Award (1986). Pastan served as poet laureate of Maryland from 1991 to 1995, and she was on the staff of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for twenty years. PM/AM and Carnival Evening were finalists for the National Book Award, and The Imperfect Paradise was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Pastan also received the Charity Randall Citation (1995), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2003), and a Radcliffe College Distinguished Alumnae Award.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Franklin, Benjamin V. “Theme and Structure in Linda Pastan’s Poetry.” Poet Lore 75 (Winter, 1981): 234-241. Summarizes Pastan’s first four books and discusses the “fatalistic” nature of Pastan’s vision, arguing that she is both “anguished” and “indomitable.”

Gray, Richard. American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. London: Longman, 1990. While this book does not comment on Pastan, the chapter titled “Formalists and Confessionalists: American Poetry Since the Second World War” surveys poetry contemporary with and relevant to Pastan’s. See the section titled “From Formalism to Freedom: A Progress of American Poetic Techniques Since the War.”

Ingersoll, Earl G., et al. The Post-Confessionals: Conversations with American Poets of the Eighties. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989. Stan Sanvel Rubin’s “Introduction” provides a detailed definition of “The Post-Confessionals” and links Pastan with her contemporaries. “‘Whatever Is at Hand’: A Conversation with Linda Pastan,” recorded in 1976 and updated in 1987, discusses Pastan’s interest in mythology and science, the theme of death, and the influence of William Stafford, especially upon her writing habits.

Norvig, Gerda S. “Linda Pastan.” In Jewish American Women Writers. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. A solid overview of Pastan’s career and accomplishments, paying special attention to the tension between the domestic and the transcendent in her work.

Smith, Dave. “Some Recent American Poetry: Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies.” American Poetry Review 11 (January/February, 1982): 36-46. In this unusually insightful review (of Waiting for My Life), Smith argues that Pastan’s central theme is desire—an asking both of what people want and of what deserves their allegiance. He also notes the profundity and “innocence” in Pastan’s telling of her main story: death.