Friday, December 26, 2014

David Caplan on The Poet Resigns

It's always good to hear what intelligent people have to say about what one writes, so I consider it a great end-of-year treat to run across David Caplan's review of The Poet Resigns in Modern Philology. The review starts with these kind observations:
Robert Archambeau’s The Poet Resigns: Poetry in a Difficult World collects twenty-seven of his essays on poetry, written (as the publication history listed in the acknowledgments suggests) approximately over the past decade and a half. The essays split roughly into two types: discussions of broader issues and considerations of a fairly eclectic group of individual poets’ work. Archambeau is best known for his monograph Laureates and Heretics: Six Careers in American Poetry (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2010), a study of Yvor Winters’s influence on five of his particularly notable graduate students (Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, James McMichael, John Matthias, and John Peck) and for his Samizdat blog. The essays in this collection resemble his previous writing. Again he is a smart, affable critic; his work is admirably lucid and consistently engaging. 
In broad terms, Archambeau’s interest in poetry might be termed more sociological than formal or thematic: he returns to questions concerned with “poetry and politics, poetry in relation to its social situation.” One chapter—which I will examine in greater detail—is arrestingly titled “Poetry and Politics, or: Why Are the Poets on the Left?” Several other chapters pose similar questions in their opening paragraphs. Referring to “the phenomenon of the poet as professor,” another chapter poses as its central question, “How does the confluence of poetry and academe change the poet’s self-definition?”
Caplan goes on to pick a bone or two with some of the book's conclusions in interesting and informed ways.  The whole review is available free to all here—an unusual and welcome thing for a journal accessible through JSTOR.