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Strange Good Fortune is a collection of fifteen essays on the state of American verse, written by a well-known American poet whose criticism has also attracted considerable attention. Passionate in his engagement with both the practice of poetry and in the observation of verse as it exists within an increasingly professionalized and sometimes perplexing scene, Wojahn follo Strange Good Fortune is a collection of fifteen essays on the state of American verse, written by a well-known American poet whose criticism has also attracted considerable attention. Passionate in his engagement with both the practice of poetry and in the observation of verse as it exists within an increasingly professionalized and sometimes perplexing scene, Wojahn follows in the tradition of poet-critics such as Randall Jarrell and Delmore Schwartz, offering provocative and insightful observations about such topics as the persistence of autobiographical poetry, poetry and politics, the creative writing industry, American poets and travel, recent literary hoaxes, and the poetry of depression and invective. The essays discuss not only familiar figures such as Elizabeth Bishop, James Wright, and Robert Lowell but also under-appreciated poets such as Weldon Kees, Frederick Seidel, and Armand Schwerner, as well as younger poets such as Mark Doty, Susan Mitchell, and Denis Johnson. Wojahn's is a humanistic and practical criticism, devoid of theoretical cant, and capable of both acute analysis of individual poems and larger generalizations about poetic method. Forceful, readable, and unflappable, Strange Good Fortune is the work of a poet writing about what he cares about; it is not hobbled by jargon or addled by theory.


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Strange Good Fortune is a collection of fifteen essays on the state of American verse, written by a well-known American poet whose criticism has also attracted considerable attention. Passionate in his engagement with both the practice of poetry and in the observation of verse as it exists within an increasingly professionalized and sometimes perplexing scene, Wojahn follo Strange Good Fortune is a collection of fifteen essays on the state of American verse, written by a well-known American poet whose criticism has also attracted considerable attention. Passionate in his engagement with both the practice of poetry and in the observation of verse as it exists within an increasingly professionalized and sometimes perplexing scene, Wojahn follows in the tradition of poet-critics such as Randall Jarrell and Delmore Schwartz, offering provocative and insightful observations about such topics as the persistence of autobiographical poetry, poetry and politics, the creative writing industry, American poets and travel, recent literary hoaxes, and the poetry of depression and invective. The essays discuss not only familiar figures such as Elizabeth Bishop, James Wright, and Robert Lowell but also under-appreciated poets such as Weldon Kees, Frederick Seidel, and Armand Schwerner, as well as younger poets such as Mark Doty, Susan Mitchell, and Denis Johnson. Wojahn's is a humanistic and practical criticism, devoid of theoretical cant, and capable of both acute analysis of individual poems and larger generalizations about poetic method. Forceful, readable, and unflappable, Strange Good Fortune is the work of a poet writing about what he cares about; it is not hobbled by jargon or addled by theory.

31 review for Strange Good Fortune: Essays on Contemporary Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Strange Good Fortune, a collection of essays by David Wojahn, was published a little over a decade ago, and some of the essays were written almost a decade before that (for instance, "The State You Are Entering: Depression and Contemporary Poetry" was written in 1992). Despite this, the collection as a whole addressed issues that continue to be of interest: Can poetry be authentic even if the circumstances that give rise to it are fictional, as is the case with the Araki Yasusada/Tosa Motokiyu/O Strange Good Fortune, a collection of essays by David Wojahn, was published a little over a decade ago, and some of the essays were written almost a decade before that (for instance, "The State You Are Entering: Depression and Contemporary Poetry" was written in 1992). Despite this, the collection as a whole addressed issues that continue to be of interest: Can poetry be authentic even if the circumstances that give rise to it are fictional, as is the case with the Araki Yasusada/Tosa Motokiyu/Ojiu Norinaga/Okura Kyojin hoax? Is poetry "dead" or "dying" or being corrupted? What is the relationship between teaching creative writing and writing? My favorite essay is "Mercantile Eyes: Travel Poems and Tourist Poems," co-authored with Wojahn's now-deceased wife, Lynda Hull: one argument they make is that writing about travels, particularly to "exotic" or "different" places, should not merely use the setting as a surface detail; instead, in order for the poem to be meaningful, the poet should grapple with the complications and uncertainties that abound when traveling abroad, when she is at the mercy of another culture. Throughout the book, Wojahn insists that good poetry takes risks; the poem that takes risks is authentic. Even if Strange Good Fortune was only this and nothing more, it would be a book worth reading. And yet is also a memoir of sorts, depicting Wojahn's life and, more prevalently, his struggle to cope with the death of his wife, Lynda Hull. Details of her death and his response to it recur throughout the book. The effect is quite touching, and saddening as well: It's clear that writing is and will be both a coping mechanism and a reminder of his late wife. Though, of course, Wojahn does go on with his life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Indispensable for his essay on writing about pop music.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gary McDowell

    Bill recs essay on narrative poetry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Donovan

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ian Bodkin

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patty Paine

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jake Adam

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brian Teare

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corey

  12. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ish

  15. 4 out of 5

    Keith Montesano

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tarfia

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dan Butterfass

  18. 5 out of 5

    Simeon Berry

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ron Mohring

  20. 4 out of 5

    Al

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lou

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stef

  23. 5 out of 5

    abcdefg

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Trevino

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Jenkins

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  31. 4 out of 5

    Matt Proctor

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