Richard Tillinghast Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Richard Tillinghast 1940–

American poet and critic.

Tillinghast's first collection of poetry, Sleep Watch (1969), marked the emergence of a poet whose sensibility often focuses, as he describes it, on "the hidden and mysterious significance" of everyday objects and events. Some critics note as well a recurrent interest in the state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. Sleep Watch, which is divided into three sections, evidences Tillinghast's ability to work in both experimental free-verse and more traditional forms.

Tillinghast's second collection, The Knife and Other Poems (1981), continues the experimental style introduced in the first section of Sleep Watch. His writing is frequently marked by careful attention to the nuances of rhythm, juxtaposition of images resulting in a collage effect, and sensitive manipulation of line breaks, spacing, and punctuation. The effect of the past on the present is often examined in this volume. For instance, the title poem revolves around the protagonist's search for an ancestor's knife. In addition, many of the poems pay homage to such poets as Stéphane Mallarmé, Charles Baudelaire, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.)