Collected Poems, by John Updike
1953-1993

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Synopsis

“The idea of verse, of poetry, has always, during forty years spent working primarily in prose, stood at my elbow, as a standing invitation to the highest kind of verbal exercise—the most satisfying, the most archaic, the most elusive of critical control.  In hotel rooms and airplanes, on beaches and Sundays, at junctures of personal happiness or its opposite, poetry has comforted me with its hope of permanence, its packaging of flux.”
                Thus John Updike writes in introducing his Collected Poems.  The earliest poems here date from 1953, when Updike was twenty-one, and the last were written after he turned sixty.  Almost all of those published in his five previous collections are included, with some revisions.  Arranged in chronological order, the poems constitute, as he says, “the thread backside of my life’s fading tapestry.”  An ample set of notes at the back of the book discusses some of the hidden threads, and expatiates upon a number of fine points.
                Nature—tenderly intricate, ruthlessly impervious—is a constant and ambiguous presence in these poems, along with the social observation one would expect in a novelist.  No occasion is too modest or too daily to excite metaphysical wonder, or to provoke a lyrical ingenuity of language.  Yet even the wittiest of the poems are rooted to the ground of experience and fact.  “Seven Odes to Seven Natural Processes” attempt to explicate the physical world with a directness seldom attempted in poetry.  Several longer poems—“Leaving Church Early,” “Midpoint”—use autobiography to proclaim the basic strangeness of existence.
 

About John Updike

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John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.
 
Published April 25, 2012 by Knopf. 416 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Collected Poems,

The Independent

The infamous sexism is also apparent: Updike takes a rigidly old-fashioned view of gender differences, and sometimes the results are outrageous, as in 'Boston Lying In': Here women, frightened, bring their sex as black men bring their wounds to the nighttime ward, red evidence of rampages t...

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The Telegraph

Poetry was just something one did.” Collected Poems by Ian Hamilton 131pp, Faber & Faber, £14.99 T £12.99 (plus £1.25 p&p) 0844 871 1515 or Telegraph Books

Jun 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Collected Poems,: 1953-1993

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