Memorable, if sometimes inflated, prose on poems, poetry, and the poet by the Pulitzer Prize—winner. Semi-famous Strand made his mark with a string of eight poetry collections before Blizzard Of One (1998), a MacArthur Fellowship, a stint as Poet Laureate, and a teaching post at the University of Chicago. As a painterly poet like John Ashbery, Strand notes poetry’s immortal edge over the fleeting, fading, and inevitably historic quality of photography. Like Wallace Stevens (who, like Ashbery, is treated here), Strand addresses an old photo of his mother 58 years after it was taken and declares: “It is I, it is the future, experiencing a terrible ineradicable exclusion.” Strand does a detailed yet impassioned job of teaching poetry. Readers will learn to appreciate the craft, imagery, and mood of a poem by Archibald MacLeish that might seem inaccessible. Strand’s sensitive explication and his observation that “a poem is a place where the conditions of beyondness and withinness are made palpable” will make them forgive his obscure praise of the poem’s “sad crepuscular beauty.” Strand is equally comfortable analyzing familiar poems like Edwin Arlington Robinson’s —Richard Cory.— He identifies poetry as the enigmatic, questioning “enemy” in our information age whose torrential flow of data—just the facts, please—provides the illusion of certainty in an uncertain world. As an antidote to the deceptive verities of newspapers and e-mails, Strand offers poetic skill and personality, poetic modes like narrative, lyric, and translation, and poets from Virgil to Joseph Brodsky. Readers who survive Strand’s imaginative but self-important alphabetical list of his artistic influences and don’t mind learning from the self-conscious laureate that of all bodies of water he prefers lakes, “where one can kneel at the edge, look down and see oneself,” will be most entertained and enlightened by this weighty little book. A spring afternoon in the dead of February for fans of Strand and modern poetry.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-40911-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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