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Re-reading Poets

Re-reading Poets: The Life of the Author

Paul Kameen
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    Re-reading Poets
    Book Description:

    InRe-reading Poets,Paul Kameen offers a deep reflection on the importance of poets and poetry to the reader. Through his historical, philosophical, scholarly, and personal commentary on select poems, Kameen reveals how these works have helped him form a personal connection to each individual poet. He relates their profound impact not only on his own life spent reading, teaching, and writing poetry, but also their potential to influence the lives of readers at every level.

    In an examination of works by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walt Whitman, and others, Kameen seeks to sense each author's way of seeing, so that author and reader may meet in a middle ground outside of their own entities where life and art merge in deeply intimate ways. Kameen counters ideologies such as New Criticism and poststructuralism that marginalize the author, and instead focuses on the author as a vital presence in the interpretive process. He analyzes how readers look to the past via "tradition," conceptualizing history in ways that pre-process texts and make it difficult to connect directly to authors. In this vein, Kameen employs examples from T. S. Eliot, Martin Heidegger, and Mikhail Bakhtin.

    Kameen examines how people become poets and how that relates to the process of actually writing poems. He tells of his own evolution as a poet and argues for poetry as a means to an end beyond the poetic, rather than an end in itself. In Re-reading Poets, Kameen's goal is not to create a new dictum for teaching poetry, but rather to extend poetry's appeal to an audience far beyond academic walls.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7761-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. One The Life of the Author
    (pp. 1-43)

    I read the poets that concern me most in this book both before and while I became a practicing professional myself, over a long period of time. The advantage of this is that I have come to understand in a direct way the ultimately casual and temporary nature of the critical preferences that happen to be currently dominant and the modes of reading they promote. Criticism, it is clear to anyone who practices it over more than a generation or so, is always a historically produced, and therefore ideological, construction with a definable (in retrospect at least) life cycle (a...

  2. Two The Other Side of Thirty
    (pp. 44-78)

    In 1971, my first year out of college, I was trying with little success to find some sort of job I might actually be suited for. Generally discouraged, I suppose, about my overall prospects, I took a couple of graduate classes as a part-time student, hoping they might help me figure out a way to bring my interest in poetry into some consonance with my occupational future. One of them was a course on Shakespeare’s tragedies. Most of the students were older by some years than my twenty-two. One of them in particular was a man in his late thirties...

  3. Three World Enough, and Time
    (pp. 79-113)

    For about five or six years, I’ve been using the same format in my course description for freshman writing, with pretty good success. As I explain to the students, my ambition in the course is to introduce them to university-level intellectual work; to me, the two most important elements for facilitating such work are as follows:

    1. You should be able to take a position of your own in relation to the assigned topic or material, one that you are committed to and are prepared to develop and explain. It will become clearer as the course goes on what I...

  4. Four Preaching to the Birds
    (pp. 114-152)

    I did not expect to turn to John Stuart Mill, of all people, as a helpmate in concluding my thinking about the value of poetry. I first encountered his work in the college English class I wrote about earlier: Both Mill’s “Autobiography” (a short excerpt) and “What Is Poetry?” (the first half of his “Thoughts on Poetry and its Varieties”) were included in theNorton Anthology of English Literature. I don’t keep many books, but for some reason I still have that one. I remember that I felt a mild sort of interest in Mill. But I specifically did not...

  5. Epilogue
    (pp. 153-166)

    I realized while I was writing the final chapter—as my own “life of the author” began to emerge through my poems as a subject for inquiry in much the same way as the other poets I am talking about—that my “defense of poetry” is not complete without some sampling of my creative work. The main difficulty is how to do it. I have written poems on and off for forty years and I have lots of them, with themes and styles that vary significantly from one “era” to the next. So I’ve been trying to find a more...