An intelligent, no-nonsense, combative inquiry into predominant currents in contemporary American poetry, with an emphasis...

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THE PSYCHO-POLITICAL MUSE: American Poetry Since the Fifties

An intelligent, no-nonsense, combative inquiry into predominant currents in contemporary American poetry, with an emphasis on Ginsberg, Lowell, Plath, Merwin, Wright, and Ashbery. Although the favored clichÉ holds that modern poetry represents a creative release from the constraints of poetic convention, Breslin argues that current poets have simply replaced one set of conventions with another, no less restricting. Drawing a link between radical politics and radical poetics, he locates a source for ""confessional,"" ""deep-image,"" and ""projective"" schools of verse in radical reinterpretations of Freud that elevate the unconscious above the rational, conforming forces of culture. Breslin believes that in some, and necessarily the best, work of this country's poets, an inward turn, the presumption of madness as a sign of election, and the concept of poète maudit flow from a radical hostility to ego and rational process, and that these crop up in varying degrees from the first line of Ginsberg's Howl straight through to Lowell's later work. Though the trend originally had the merits of breaking taboos, loosening up diction, and welcoming novelistic detail, Breslin, not one to avoid a scrap, points out the limitations and occasional silliness of the new orthodoxy's excesses that lead to hyper-alienation from the wider culture and--too--downright indecipherability. Sharp, detailed, and mercifully well-written, Breslin ought to be applauded for his honesty in an area of criticism all too often blunted by an overly indulgent approach.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1987

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987