Publishers Weekly, 1995-10-09 This is impassioned poetry criticism of the best sort. So good, in fact, that even those without a taste for poetry (or for criticism, for that matter) will find themselves entertained and instructed. For those for whom meter is still important, Carruth has a few essays, particularly ``Three Notes on the Versewriting of Alexander Pope,'' that offer smart discussions of feet, accent and speed. But as a poet himself (he won an NBCC and, most recently, a Lannan), Carruth's most valuable contribution is not only context but real style and years of thinking about the more transcendental subjects of poetry. These are definitely selected essaysæthere are only five from the '50s, for exampleæbut each shows the evidence of such intense thinking about both craft and meaning that almost every piece leaves the reader with some new enthusiasm. It's a hard-hearted type who won't run out and buy a volume of Edwin Muir's poetry, or dust off Pope. And even though Carruth's essay on Paul Goodman (which at 40-plus pages is by far the longest in the collection) is more a gathering of impressions than a cohesive essay, Carruth's ear for the beautiful line makes for a convincing argument on its own. It is also worthwhile to read for Carruth's very occasional speculation on the pitfalls of criticism: ``We have our deplorable literary `racket'; once it was called the `game'; we are perhaps even pleased with it; its hazards pique our small mettle while our innocence believes that in the end History will effect conclusive judgments, raising all good poets to their proper rank in spite of our present contentions and maneuvers.'' (Nov.)
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