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Picking and Choosing: Essays on Prose

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Picking and Choosing: Essays on Prose

by Carolyn Kizer

About this title: Her illustrious career as a poet (her most recent honor has been her election by her peers to the position of Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets) has properly caused readers, students, friends, and critics to think of Carolyn Kizer as one of the nation's finest virtuosos in the difficult art of poetry--giving the passions of her time and place a permanent voice. Throughout her career, however, this singularly honest, passionate voice has also spoken out in prose on a great many topics, not only the concerns of women and the art of poetry but also her lifelong studies in oriental literature, her direct, personal involvement in a broad range of contemporary literary and political mises-en-scenes, and her Sapphie impatience with the tawdry and the unworthy in any corner of public or private life. Picking & Choosing has been gathered--at the eager insistence of readers and friends--from among her numerous contributions to The New York Times and a representative sampling of national and regional periodicals. This selection makes a companion volume to Prose: Essays on Verse, Copper Canyon Press, 1994, in which this generous spirit celebrates the rich diversity of contemporary poetry, beginning with an autobiographical account of how her gifts and tastes were fostered by her parents and, from her earliest years, her contacts and friendships with other poets. Picking & Choosing, Essays on Prose, continues with themes in the same fine spirited way, concluding with an essay about Theodore Roethke as a teacher. Her commentaries on the women and men of her time and ours, the writers and the characters in their writing, are threaded through with the temerity, energy, and wit by which Carolyn Kizer has earned her distinguished place in contemporary letters. Only she could hold an audience of graduates rapt with a commencement address on failure. The centerpiece of this volume is a two-part essay on Japanese fiction, a profound consideration of Donald Keene's great gift to Western readers, his many surveys, anthologies, critiques, appreciations, and translations from the Japanese, which have given us an understanding of the people and the culture of Japan which we otherwise, quite simply, would not have. Her tribute to Keene is all the more cogent, considering her own work in bringing the attention of American readers to her spiritual companions, the writers of China, Pakistan, Bulgaria, and other distant territories of the mind and heart.

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