| Apr 26, 2008
By Art Winslow
Christopher Benfey, a scholar of Emily Dickinson and Gilded Age America, would not have his book "A Summer of Hummingbirds" had Dickinson not responded to a small floral painting sent to her in 1882 by writing an eight-line poem in...
| Jun 12, 2008
The classic authors who appear as fictionalized characters in "Wild Nights!" (Ecco, 256 pages, $24.95) aren't the ones most of us met in Intro to American Literature.
Edgar Allan Poe copulating with a one-eyed amphibian? Mark Twain pursuing pubescent...
| Apr 6, 2009
I'm impatient by nature. But I thought I had learned how to remain still in yoga classes, coaxing calm and patience from an overactive mind. I thought I learned patience when my daughter was born 2 1/2 weeks late. But I didn't really learn anything...
| Feb 15, 2009
A Jury of Her Peers
American Women Writers
From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx
Alfred A. Knopf: 608 pp., $30
The title of this, the "first literary history of American women writers ever written," explains Elaine Showalter, comes...
| Sep 2, 2007
They wait like pilgrims, queuing silently, bearing volumes for inscription and awaiting a chance to touch the hem of his garment.
They're not Franciscans approaching Assisi but earnest readers rushing bookstores and cultural temples for word -- wisdom,...
| Aug 8, 2008
Even the simplest snapshot is a complex testament to how the past persists into the present. Then becomes now, remains now. Guillaume Zuili's photographs at Couturier complicate the matter exquisitely. Each is a double exposure, two thens fused into a...
| Sep 20, 2009
When I was in my early 20s, living in Berkeley and drifting toward a PhD in Russian literature, I started writing poetry. It was a completely unexpected development. I definitely hadn't been one of those kids in high school who worked for the literary...
| Oct 4, 2009
Daunting as it may be to assemble a centuries-spanning assessment of any country, even one with a fairly linear march through history, how does one approach a culture as unstable, contradictory and contested as ours? Where do you start? Where do you stop?...
| Jan 16, 2009
The American Civil War became known as an "unwritten war" because so few attempted or succeeded in writing anything substantial about it at the time. Yet perhaps this view is only partly true.
Emily Dickinson's most prolific outpouring of poems...
| Oct 3, 2010
Poems and Prose Poems
Beacon Press: 96 pp., $23
"What can I say that I have not said before?" the poet Mary Oliver wonders on page 1 of this, her 20th collection. "So I'll say it again./The leaf has a song in it." She is a little...
| Sep 12, 2010
Selected Poems and Commentaries
Harvard University Press: 530 pp., $35
I'm just a regular reader, you say. I read for pleasure. Why should I read the commentaries of critic Helen Vendler on the "epigrammatic, terse, abrupt,...
| Feb 26, 2010
Whether they're true or not, myths and legends that surround poets help us to see their work in a comprehensible context. Say the names Keats, Poe or Plath, for instance, and images of consumption, drug addiction and mental illness may come to mind,...