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  • The Finest and the Most Dangerous: Kay Redfield Jamison and Robert Lowell
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    113

    Kay Redfield Jamison has spent her career as a clinical psychologist studying and writing about those afflicted with manic depression, especially artists and writers. She has been especially attentive to poets and now has completed Setting the River on Fire, her extensive study of Robert Lowell, in whose life and poetry madness went hand in hand with creativity, invention and artistic genius. The result is a fascinating text at the crossroads of clinical writing, biography and literary criticism, illuminating both Lowell’s poetry and his life-long struggle with mental disorder. The most important question of the book is this: does manic depression help or hinder writing poetry? His illness was no doubt one of the most important subject matters in Lowell’s life work. The parallel demonstrated between Lowell and other “mad” poets extends the subject matter of this book so that it becomes not only Lowell’s illness, but also the relationship between mental disorder and writing poetry in general. Mania, like all mental disorders, is a synecdoche of the human psyche in general; its representation in poetry raises the problem of the mask as well as that of confession. A confessional poem, in Lowell’s view, is a text which contains (“confesses”) the subject’s psyche in its complexity and ambiguity. Mania is both a part of this psyche and a target of confession. As his poetry testifies, paradoxically, Lowell managed to be confessional while wearing the mask of the other. His illness partly explains why his life work is particularly open to readings that view it as an organic whole.

  • Beyond the “Raked Gardens”: Female Identity in American Suburban Poetry
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    154

    The article analyzes an overlooked aspect of American suburban poetry—the writing of American women poets who deal with the problem of how to represent female identity. Drawing on the existing criticism of women’s poetry, a comprehensive survey of the suburban poems by American women poets, from the 1940s to the 2000s, is provided. The article documents the various approaches that these poets adopt in order to explore identity while resisting the gender stereotypization in American suburbia. These approaches include either embracing the suburban ideal of domestic conformity or attempting to present women suburbanites who reject the socially prescribed roles forced upon them and develop new identities of their own. (JF)

  • Journeying Across Languages, Cultures, and Literatures: The Poetry of Mervyn Morris
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    115

    The West Indian poet Mervyn Morris (1937-) is renowned for espousing the importance of a national language in creating national literature as well as for integrating European poetic heritage with Caribbean literary traditions. Through an exploration of Morris’s selected poems, the paper discusses the role language plays in shaping the themes of diasporic writing and of postcolonial identity, and argues that his works show a deep awareness of the fundamental aspects of West Indian and British culture. Since Morris “refuses to be trapped in the excesses of post-modern Romanticism or political propaganda parading as nationalism” (Thompson), the paper also looks at the presentation of eternal values like love and humanity celebrated in his poems. By foregrounding the frequent use of epiphanies in his poetry, Morris conveys human affection in the frame of colonial and postcolonial history. (PF)

  • “If I Should Die”: Attitudes to the Dead Hero in British Poetry of the Great War
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    65

    When we read the poems of the Great War today, we interpret them both as historical documents and as works of art. World War I poetry wished to open the readers’ eyes to the horror that they were unable to imagine in the home country. As a consequence, the representation of the victim position proved to be particularly important both in populist texts (such as John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”) and in poems undermining the conventional idea of heroism (such as those by Charles Sorley, Wilfred Owen, Edmund Blunden). Furthermore, a comparison between two poems about war heroes, Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier” and Yeats’s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” demonstrates the difference between war poetry and modernist literature. Yeats views and considers the problem of the dead hero from a distance, whereas Brooke represents his own situation from within. Both texts (although very different both in character and in artistic value) contribute to our better understanding of the war experience. (IDR)

  • Nature (as) Language in the Poetry of Seán Lysaght
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    53

    The article focuses on a selection of poems by the Irish poet Seán Lysaght to demonstrate that in his work, Lysaght looks to explore nature’s intricate design, its pre-human and pre-linguistic layers of significance through investigations of birds, arguing that rather than offering culturally or politically inflected images of wildlife and landscape, as Irish poets from W. B. Yeats through Patrick Kavanagh all the way to Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley have been wont to do, Lysaght sets the vast natural world, which eludes apprehension in language, against the modern world and its obsession with material productivity and pragmatic efficiency. This aspect of Lysaght’s poetry is discussed against the background of Heaney, Yeats, and William Wordsworth, who are shown to share some insights with Lysaght, but from whose influence he strives to steer away.  (WP)

  • “He / looks into / his own eyes”: Thom Gunn’s Ekphrastic Poems
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    152

    Thom Gunn’s oeuvre spanned more than four decades, during which he kept writing ekphrastic poems. The way words and images relate to each other in them, however, changed gradually and considerably. While his early work is characterized by the dominance of the verbal over the visual, his later poems from the 1970s and 80s question the dominance of language and attribute destructive power to the image. Word and image become reconciled in Gunn’s last two collections from the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. The gradual change in Gunn’s ekphrastic work corresponds to the development of his identity as a gay man; this identity, full-blown at the end of his career, is reflected in his mature treatment of images. (IOH)

  • From Achilles’s Tent to a San Francisco Restaurant: Imaginations of the Closet in Thom Gunn’s Poetry
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    100

    This essay examines Thom Gunn’s key poems, chronologically mapping Ruth E. Fassinger’s model of gay and lesbian identity development onto it. Gunn’s poetry gradually changed in terms of how he addressed his homosexuality: whereas in his early work his sexual orientation was concealed, later it became increasingly visible, to the point of unambiguously referring to himself as “queer” in a poem from the 1980s. The poems discussed in this article—“The Wound” (1954), “The Secret Sharer” (1954), “The Corridor” (1957), “The Monster” (1961), “Bravery” (1967), “Behind the Mirror” (1976), and “Talbot Road” (1982)—address the split self of the speaker accompanied by spatial division. The poems with this leitmotif form a corpus characterized by a gradual change in terms of the rigidity of the division. Identifying the spatial division as the closet and the split self as the closeted subject, the article argues that Gunn’s coming out of the closet is a recurring poetic device deliberately developed throughout his oeuvre, which demonstrates his growth as an artist. (IOH)

  • A Heart’s Pledge in Metaerotopoetics
    Views:
    64

    Book review:

    Gray, Erik. The Art of Love Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018. 210 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-875297-4. Hb. £50.00.

  • Iterations of Silence
    Views:
    155

    Book review:

    Fadem, Maureen E. Ruprecht. Silence and Articulacy in the Poetry of Medbh McGuckian. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2019. 310 pages. ISBN 978-1-7936-0707-2. E-book. $115.

  • There and Back: An Interview with Tom Hubbard
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    74

    In this interview, conducted during the fourteenth ESSE Conference at Brno in the Czech Republic, Scottish academic and writer Tom Hubbard speaks about his recent work of poetry and fiction, such as The Flechitorium (2017) and Slavonic Dances (2017). He also discusses the stimulating forces behind and the stumbling blocks on the long road towards Scottish independence. He fears and is anxious about the consequences of Brexit on the multifaceted exchange in the arts and literature that Scots have been keen to maintain with other nations throughout the centuries. At the center of his discussion lies his view of Scotland’s place in a nexus of international exchange that would be, ideally, based on mutual and informed interest in each other’s cultural achievement—in literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. (AD)

  • “The Third Image”: Ekphrasis and Memory in Charles Simic’s Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell
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    59

    In his collection of prose-poems, Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, Charles Simic evokes the American artist’s aesthetic practice as a form of meditation on the heterosemiotic nature of the artistic imagination. Cornell’s art, often described as “visual poetry,” becomes for Simic a pretext for exploring the multimodal and interconnected spaces of the verbal and the visual. Simic describes his creative rereading of Cornell’s work as “the third image” in which art historical discourse and ekphrasis are reinvented and transformed into a new poetic rhythm. The poet’s engagement with Cornell is also of an intensely personal character: the encounter with the artist’s work enables Simic to revisit his own past, that is, that of a lonely Manhattan flaneur whose imagination is haunted by traumatic childhood memories from war-torn Serbia. With the aid of Jacques Lacan’s concepts of the gaze and the screen, the article examines the ways in which Simic’s texts and visual intertexts probe generic boundaries and discursive identifications, showcasing the significance, function, and creative value of cross-influence between heterogeneous discourses and media. As shown, Simic’s concept of “the third image,” which finds its inspiration in the tension between containment and freedom in Cornell’s shadow boxes, offers readers a rich and personal insight into the complex interplay between discursivity, visuality, figurality, as well as personal and collective memory. (PA)

  • Critical Wounds, Sutured
    Views:
    99

    Book review:

    Veprinska, Anna. Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 203 pages. ISBN 978-3-030-34319-4. Hb. €74.89.

  • What Will Survive of Us?
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    43

    Book review:

    Booth, James. Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 532 pages. ISBN 978 1 4088 5166 1. Hb. £25.00.

  • Larkin’s Poetics
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    51

    Book review:

    Rácz, István. Philip Larkin’s Poetics: Theory and Practice of an English Post-War Poet. Leiden and Boston: Brill Rodopi. 2016. 235 pages. ISBN 978-90-04-31106-0. Hb. €76.00.

  • The Petrified Men and the Scarecrow: Substance, Body, and Self-image in Seamus Heaney’s Bog Poems
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    87

    Seamus Heaney’s poetry was engaged with violence for decades. His artistic exploration of land and fossils revolved around the same questions: to what extent can a human being move himself away from an inherent “tribalism”? To what extent is identity inherited through history and what rights, responsibilities come with it? These questions arose in the author's oeuvre when the horrors of civil war reached their peak in Northern Ireland. The issues of shared community not only played a significant role in the development of self-identification, they also meant the survival of the sectarian conflict. Starting with the first bog-poems, Heaney was keen on producing a mythology to serve identity, and sometimes allowed his political opinion to filter through the images of Stone Age remains from the bog. For scientists, the investigation of archeological finds means relying on methods such as the necessary carbon analysis and careful identification of evidence, as to who these bodies were, when they lived, what characterized their daily routines, and the times they lived in. The same findings, however, had a different impact on Heaney. He used the metaphor of the land of these ancient bodies, and of history, to engage with the question of identity, but criticism made him reconsider what position he should take on the morality of the given past society. At the same time the poet, who voluntarily shared common roots with these long-forgotten forbears, was the one who started deconstructing their moral heritage in the works written towards the end of his poetic oeuvre. In contrast to earlier poems on bog-bodies, “Tollund” from the 1996 collection, The Spirit Level, and “Tollund Man in Springtime” from 2006, reflect a forward-looking attitude in which Heaney left behind an apologist viewpoint for sectarian violence. (JP)

  • Multiple Contexts: English and Jewish Aspects of Howard Jacobson’s Novels
    Views:
    79

    Book review:

    Anténe, Petr. Howard Jacobson’s Novels in the Context of Contemporary British Jewish Literature. Olomouc: Palacký University, 2019. 166 pages. ISBN 978-80-244-5651-5. Pbk. N.p.

  • Unlearning Gender
    Views:
    133

    Book review:

    Repo, Jemima. The Biopolitics of Gender. Oxford: OUP, 2016. 218 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-025691-3. Hbk. Npr.

  • Memorials of the Irish West: John McHugh, Paul Durcan, and Harry Clifton
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    79

    The article examines John McHugh’s sculpture (1950s Boat, 2009), Paul Durcan’s poem which it inspired “1950’s Boat (after John McHugh)” (2009)—both focusing on the Achill island—and another poem referring to the Blaskets, Harry Clifton’s “The Year of the Yellow Meal” (2012), trying to answer the question in what respect they stay close to realism and in what they approach experimentation. McHugh’s sculpture takes on an experimental form made of fragments of real stories, Durcan’s poem begins with this experimental sculpture and drifts towards realistic details but triggers experimental speculations, while Clifton’s poem mediates the Blasket biography through a style akin to magical realism in prose. All three palimpsestic works investigate issues of parochialism and marginalization faced with migration and cosmopolitanism, touch on the ethics (or rather, the lack) of gender policy and globalization, and by doing so, enquire about the Irish West’s disappearing culture.

  • Squirrels, Timber, and the ‘Ecological Self’ in Faulkner’s The Bear
    Views:
    185

    Reading William Faulkner’s “The Bear” with a literary ecologist perspective could shift readers from abstraction to ethical responsibility. Deep ecology, ecopsychology, and constructionist views of human development align with ethical criticism and ecocriticism to establish the basis for what Freya Mathews refers to as the “Ecological Self.” Mathews joins others in noting that human development must become ecologically self-aware—a state engendering emotional, ethical responses, confirming wholeness and sustainability rather than mere intellectual, theoretical acknowledgment, or worse, pathological denial. Literary ecology joins textual analysis and meta-textual information to affirm the story’s implied stewardship, despite Faulkner’s sometimes unclear, tragic view of his landscape. An optimistic ecocritical reading affirms, or surpasses, various critical approaches often used with the story—in particular, the paradise myth. Reading ecocritically affirms individual health and sustainability with human culture and nonhuman nature. (KH)

  • Reproduction and the Female Body in Anne Sexton’s Poetry
    Views:
    526

    The essay focuses on two representative examples of Anne Sexton’s poems about reproduction, “In Celebration of My Uterus” and “The Abortion.” Contrary to most previous analyses which have foregrounded Sexton’s concern with personal identity, the paper claims that Sexton positions personal experience in the wider framework of cultural and social discourses. “In Celebration of My Uterus” explores the experience of the vitality of the speaker’s reproductive organ in the context of kinship with women in other geopolitical locations, also addressing how childbearing is implicated in processes of national economic production. “The Abortion” situates the termination of a pregnancy in the context of the Pennsylvanian landscape, raising questions regarding the embeddedness of the natural landscape in processes of human economic production, as well as the financial implications of the termination of a pregnancy. While questions of self-identity, personal boundaries, and physical experiences are undoubtedly central to “The Abortion” and “In Celebration of My Uterus,” they also attest to Sexton’s concern with the experience of the individual in their wider social context.  (BK)

  • Wonder vs. Sublime in Romantic and Postmodern Literature
    Views:
    83

    Book review:

    Economides, Louise. The Ecology of Wonder in Romantic and Postmodern Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. vii + 214 pages. ISBN 978-1-137-47750-7. E-book. $84.99.

  • Nature, the Picturesque and the Sublime in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Travel Narratives
    Views:
    205

    The article explores Mary Shelley’s approach to the sublime and the picturesque in her two travel narratives, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour and Rambles in Germany and Italy. These two accounts of her travels through France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany reveal her debt to a variety of contemporary sources aimed at exploring the nature of a sublime or picturesque experience. The analysis illustrates the complexity of Mary Shelley’s approach: while moving beyond the “egotistical sublime” typified by some key passages from William Wordsworth’s Prelude, her travel narratives reveal a variety of approaches to nature and the landscape, aimed at bridging present and past, personal experience and recent historical events.  Thus, while in History, the experience of the landscape offers a way out of the suffering caused by the Napoleonic Wars, in Rambles, Mary Shelley turns to poetry and painting, this way transforming the eighteenth-century aesthetic appreciation of landscape based on the pictorial categories of the sublime and the beautiful, and embracing a modern, cultivated sensibility nourished by guidebooks and art history manuals.  (AB)

     

  • Vonnegut Reinvented
    Views:
    102

    Book review:

    McInnis, Gilbert. Kurt Vonnegut, Myth and Science in the Postmodern World. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2020. 184 pages. ISBN 978-1-4331-7435-3. Hb. CAD 42.08.

  • What Makes the Genre of Lyric Compelling?
    Views:
    55

    Book review:

    Culler, Jonathan. Theory of the Lyric. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2015. x + 391 pages. ISBN 978-0-674-74426-4. Hb. $41.