Of interest to poetry neophytes and newcomers to Williams’ work, less so to seasoned readers.

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THE POETRY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS OF RUTHERFORD

A personal and critical homage to a giant of American poetry.

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963), one of America’s most respected 20th-century writers, is the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, essay, drama and autobiography, including Spring and All (1923), Life Along the Passaic River (1938), and The Farmers’ Daughters (1961). He is recognized as one of the central figures in postwar American poetry and is often associated with Modernism and, somewhat erroneously, Imagism. The prolific Berry (Imagination in Place, 2010, etc.) also works in multiple genres, and he is perhaps as well-known for poetry and fiction as for essays on a wide range of topics, including farming and agriculture, ecological awareness, rural American culture, poetics and imagination and politics. With a sensibility that is decidedly pastoral, agrarian, even populist, it is not surprising that Berry reads Williams via a poetics of place, or what he calls “local adaptation.” This is a fairly conventional reading that contrasts Williams—the “true” regional poet of rural America—with the supposedly more urban, cosmopolitan and international avant-garde writers like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Although Berry acknowledges Williams’ complexity and antipoetic tendencies, as well as his similarities to Eliot, he always returns him to a fundamentally lyrical poetics interested in the “mass of detail” and an attempt to find beauty and order in nature via poetry. This interpretation is somewhat pedestrian and situates Williams as a poet on a romantic quest for some kind of unmediated contact with nature and the objects of reality. The importance of Williams’s phrase “no ideas but in things” has been persistently exaggerated by critics, and Berry uses it as a kind of springboard to argue that Williams’ poetry is “culturally useful.” Finally, the author’s attacks on writers and critics teaching in universities—“literary industrialists”—seem misplaced.

Of interest to poetry neophytes and newcomers to Williams’ work, less so to seasoned readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58243-714-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

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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