The Virtues of Poetry: Book summary and reviews of The Virtues of Poetry by James Longenbach

The Virtues of Poetry

by James Longenbach

The Virtues of Poetry by James Longenbach X
The Virtues of Poetry by James Longenbach
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Book Summary

An illuminating look at the many forms of poetry's essential excellence by James Longenbach, a writer with "an ear as subtle and assured as any American poet now writing" (John Koethe)

"This book proposes some of the virtues to which the next poem might aspire: boldness, change, compression, dilation, doubt, excess, inevitability, intimacy, otherness, particularity, restraint, shyness, surprise, and worldliness.  The word 'virtue' came to English from Latin, via Old French, and while it has acquired a moral valence, the word in its earliest uses gestured toward a magical or transcendental power, a power that might be embodied by any particular substance or act. With vices I am not concerned. Unlike the short-term history of taste, which is fueled by reprimand or correction, the history of art moves from achievement to achievement. Contemporary embodiments of poetry's virtues abound, and only our devotion to a long history of excellence allows us to recognize them." – from James Longenbach's preface
 
The Virtues of Poetry is a resplendent and ultimately moving work of twelve interconnected essays, each of which describes the way in which a particular excellence is enacted in poetry. Longenbach closely reads poems by Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Keats, Dickinson, Yeats, Pound, Bishop, and Ashbery (among others), sometimes exploring the ways in which these writers transmuted the material of their lives into art, and always emphasizing that the notions of excellence we derive from art are fluid, never fixed. Provocative, funny, and astute, The Virtues of Poetry is indispensable for readers, teachers, and writers. Longenbach reminds us that poetry delivers meaning in exacting ways, and that it is through its precision that we experience this art's lasting virtues.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"James Longenbach is an incontestably brilliant critic." – Publishers Weekly

"A sensibility this cogent, this subtle and austere is rare; even rarer is its proof that poetry still flows through all things and transforms all things in the process." –The Los Angeles Times Book Review

This information about The Virtues of Poetry was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

James Longenbach

James Longenbach is a poet and critic. He is the author of The Art of the Poetic Line and several other critical works, as well as four collections of poetry, including The Iron Key. He is Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester.

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