History Matters

History Matters : Contemporary Poetry on the Margins of American Culture

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In this capacious and energetic volume, Ira Sadoff argues that poets live and write within history, our artistic values always reflecting attitudes about both literary history and culture at large. "History Matters" does not return to the culture war that reduced complex arguments about human nature, creativity, identity, and interplay between individual and collective identity to slogans. Rather, Sadoff peels back layers of clutter to reveal the important questions at the heart of any complex and fruitful discussion about the connections between culture and literature. Much of our most adventurous writing has occurred at history's margins, simultaneously making use of and resisting tradition. By tracking key contemporary poets - including John Ashbery, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Louise Gluck, Czeslaw Milosz, Frank O'Hara, and C. K. Williams - as well as musing on jazz and other creative enterprises, Sadoff investigates the lively poetic art of those who have grappled with late twentieth-century attitudes about history, subjectivity, contingency, flux, and modernity. In plainspoken writing, he probes the question of the poet's capacity to illuminate and universalize truth. Along the way, we are called to consider how and why art moves and transforms human beings.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 228 pages
  • 160.02 x 233.68 x 20.32mm | 453.59g
  • University of Iowa Press
  • Iowa, United States
  • English
  • 1587297973
  • 9781587297977

About Ira Sadoff

Ira Sadoff is the Arthur Jeremiah Roberts Professor of English at Colby College. A distinguished, award-winning poet and critic, he is the author of numerous books of poetry, criticism, and essays, including Barter, Grazing, An Ira Sadoff Reader, Emotional Traffic, and Uncoupling, a novel. His poetry has been widely anthologized, most recently in Best Poems of 2008.show more

Review quote

If I hadn't read it, I'd never have thought this book could be possible in these, our moribund days of literary criticism, when everything counts for teachers of literature except literature itself. Ira Sadoff does literary criticism in what is now an almost unknown way: with a lover's riveted attention to the textures of his beloved's body. Sadoff's winning wager is that such attention yields revelations about the ways that poems inform us, change us, upend our normal habits of understanding give us a world we'd never known before and cannot know in any other way. A thrilling and brave defense of poetry. A unique and, for me, heartwarming achievement. Frank Lentricchia, author, "The Modernist Quartet," and coauthor, "Crimes of Art and Terror""show more

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