A powerful prose-poem whose subject is the language of love—and the poet who sang in no other tongue. (8 pages b&w...

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WHAT LIPS MY LIPS HAVE KISSED

THE LOVES AND LOVE POEMS OF EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

A passionate paean to the writer Epstein calls “America’s foremost love poet.”

In a terrific volume that supplements rather than supplants Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty (p. 788), Epstein (Nat King Cole, 1999, etc.) presents Millay (1892–1950) as an erotic dynamo whose serial sexual encounters and rich love life inspired her finest poems, which he praises with a lexicon of superlatives. Like Milford (who appears twice as the “other biographer”), Epstein consulted the huge Millay archive (some 20,000 uncatalogued documents) housed at the Library of Congress since the 1986 death of Norma Millay Ellis, sister of the poet and literary executrix. (Milford had examined them years earlier at the Millay home.) Epstein begins on a night in 1911 with a riveting account of the nubile, nightgowned Millay writing in her notebook and chanting by candlelight. He then leaps backward to the story of mother Cora Millay before settling into a chronology from which he does not often deviate. As much as Epstein admires the poems, he can barely restrain his passion for the poet herself. “With her big green eyes and her spectacular floor-length, golden-red hair,” he writes of the teenaged Millay, “she looked like a lovely Celtic fairy.” Later, he writes eloquently about her breasts, her come-hither look, and that hair, a clipping of which once caused an observer to faint. (He reveals that nude photographs will be available for scholarly inspection in 2010.) Epstein is a phrasemaker, consistently delighting with apposite metaphors and piquant comments on her verse. He chronicles her wild years at Vassar, her cometary appearance in the literary sky with “Renascence” (1912), her arrest supporting Sacco and Vanzetti, her Pulitzer, and her enormous popularity. He accuses academic critics—who have often disdained Millay—of doing her “a grave injustice, mistaking clarity and unity for triviality.” With great compassion, he charts Millay’s sad decline into alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression.

A powerful prose-poem whose subject is the language of love—and the poet who sang in no other tongue. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6727-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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