Twenty Questions by J. D. McClatchy

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews


In Twenty Questions, one of America's finest poet-critics leads readers into the mysteries of poetry: how it draws on our lives, and how it leads us back into them. In a series of linked essays progressing from the autobiographical to the critical -- and closing with a remarkable translation of Horace's Ars Poetica unavailable elsewhere -- J. D. McClatchy's latest book offers an intimate and illuminating look into the poetic mind.

McClatchy begins with a portrait of his development as a poet and as a man, and provides vibrant details about some of those who helped shape his sensibility -- from Anne Sexton in her final days, to Harold Bloom, his enigmatic teacher at Yale, to James Merrill, a wise and witty mentor. All of these glimpses into McClatchy's personal history enhance our understanding of a coming of age from ingenious reader to accomplished poet-critic.

Later sections range through poetry past and present -- from Emily Dickinson to Seamus Heaney and W. S. Merwin -- with incisive criticism generously interspersed with vivid anecdotes about McClatchy's encounters with other poets' lives and work. A critical unpacking of Alexander Pope's "Epistle to Miss Blount" is interwoven with compassionate psychological portrait of a brilliant poet plagued by both romantic longings and debilitating physical deformities. There are surprising takes on the literary imagination as well: a look at Elizabeth Bishop through her letters, and a tribute to the Broadway lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and the tradition of light verse.

The questions McClatchy poses of poems prompt a fresh look and the last word. Free of scholarly pretension, elegantly and movingly written, Twenty Questions is a bright, open window onto a public and private experience of poetry, to be appreciated by poets, readers, and critics alike.


About J. D. McClatchy

See more books from this Author
J. D. McCLATCHY is the author of four collections of poems: "Scenes from Another Life, Stars Principal, The Rest of the Way, "and ""Ten Commandments." "His literary essays are collected in "White Paper, "which won the Melville Cane Award granted by the Poetry Society of America. He is the editor of "The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry "and "The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, "and has served, since 1991, as the editor of the Yale Review. Named a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1996, he received an award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1991. He lives in New York City.
Published April 15, 1998 by Columbia University Press. 224 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Rate this book!

Add Review