AFTER-IMAGES by W.D. Snodgrass


Autobiographical Sketches
Age Range: 1 - 32767
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paper 1-880238-76-4 Enjoyable and important reading on the life of the Pulitzer-winning poet (for Heart’s Needle) who made autobiography an art form by founding the “confessional” school. This collection of thematic more than chronological autobiographical pieces demonstrates that Snodgrass can turn his problematic interior life into enduring prose as well as poetry. In a hilarious opening chapter entitled “Good Housekeeping,” he explains how a large, wealthy home in industrial Beaver Falls, Penn., could have created so much craziness and creativity. His mother “could keep a grudge better than anyone I’ve ever known,” but she couldn’t keep house. She crammed every cranny with soon broken cheap furniture and collectibles, noisy TVs and radios, filthy cats and dogs, and years of old newspapers and magazines. The pollution inside and out (“balls of greasy soot and grit, like peppercorns, had settled on the sills’) becomes more serious when his sister dies of asthma at 25. The author’s mother taught classics and belonged to Daughters of the American Revolution, while his father was a CPA whose womanizing fanned conflicts at home and who wanted his son to give up poetry. “Don—t you see that you—ll never amount to a hill of beans with this sort of thing,” he asks. Weeks later, Snodgrass wins the 1960 Pulitzer and is suddenly in demand by schools and even by women. While he goes from marriage to divorce (losing his daughter was the catalyst for his first acclaimed book of poetry) to writer’s block and psychoanalysis, the author is keenly aware of his colleagues’ similar weaknesses. Randall Jarrell is “one poet of that generation I’d thought might escape madness.” At the Univ. of Iowa, he meets many of those troubled geniuses, like Berryman, and goes from writing “the very best second-rate Lowell” to having Robert Lowell emulate his work in popularizing “confessional” poetry. Eloquent autobiography, and for those interested in the inner life of modern American poetry or creativity, essential reading.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1999
ISBN: 1-880238-75-6
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: BOA Editions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999