Imperfect but the insights outweigh the pretension.




What prompts people to write poetry? What permits a poet to revise himself? Poet and critic Teicher (The Trembling Answers, 2017, etc.) offers new versions of previously published essays, each of which considers aspects of poets’ artistic development.

Refreshingly, the author discusses less well-established poets such as Monica McClure and francine j. harris, but he is at his most astute when assessing the oeuvres of poets whose careers are complete, or nearly so. He reads Sylvia Plath, for example, as a poet who experienced a dramatic breakthrough later in her career. Her early work demonstrated “a virtuosity of technique,” but it wasn’t until the last poems in The Colossus and the “extraordinary abandon” of Ariel that Plath found a subject worthy of her technical power (herself). Teicher’s assessment of W.S. Merwin, by turns laudatory and sharply critical, manages in 13 pages to map a complex, persuasive chronology: Merwin’s early affection for “Pre-Raphaelite ornamentation,” his nearly perfect middle-period poetry, his descent into a kind of solipsistic self-parody, and his late work, in which he “can step out of his own way and let the poem come through unobstructed.” Considering Louise Glück, Teicher makes the illuminating suggestion that her poetry is animated by a tension: Glück finds meaning in everything—in the merest leaf or sunbathing episode—but that habit of mind “grates against her belief that the world is mostly meaningless, mostly uncaring.” Teicher’s narrative is marred by occasional romantic self-seriousness—e.g., poets “are people who, for any number of reasons, cannot, or at one point could not, speak…the keepers of the unsayable”—and he is on shakier ground when, instead of discussing poems, he attempts to divine the motives of the poet, as when he suggests that Glück uses a “mask” in Faithful and Virtuous Night because she needed to “fool herself into [the] vulnerability” required to write about the approach of death.

Imperfect but the insights outweigh the pretension.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55597-821-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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