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SELECTED POEMS: 1923-1975 by Robert Penn Warren


by Robert Penn Warren

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Random House

Robert Penn Warren is a moral realist in his novels and a lyric moralist in his poems. He is fascinated by man's obsessions and imperfections—circumscribed by custom, limited by having to make choices, alternately exalted and dismayed by experience. "The recognition of complicity" as "the beginning of innocence" and "the recognition of necessity" as "the beginning of freedom"—this apposition is the persistent theme throughout his work. The best of the Selected Poems, then, are memorable primarily as examples of moral sensibility, poems whose cultural touchstones reflect philosophy, religion, art, but whose ultimate emotional allegiance is with the claims of history and the contradictions of human nature. His panoramic re-creations—the American South, New York, Washington, the old world of the Mediterranean, childhood, marriage, family life—are full of magnanimity, local color, ironic portraiture; they have a genuine thoughtfulness and raw beauty which strikingly project an intelligent and gifted poet's attempt to make sense of the chaos of past and present. If at times a certain rhetorical crudity or imaginative heaviness damage his style, the earnestness of Warren's moral concerns is continually apparent. Both in the novels and the poems, during a long and exemplary career, he has blended modernism and romanticism, dreams and responsibilities, in a manner that we can now see is distinctly his own.