An unexpectedly entertaining collection of writing by poets discussing the creative inspiration and artistic form of their work.
This enjoyable romp through the thoughts of 85 poets is a lark masquerading as a colossus. When writers from John Ashbery to Charles Wright talk about their work, you might expect Deep Thoughts, but it is surprising (and fun) to read how even the most erudite poet can be as uncertain as the next person. Lehman, editor of this second edition (the first was published by Macmillan in 1987), observed in the original preface that the work is intended to be "perfectly emblematic of the poetic process itself"; but a new preface sees the volume merely as "a chance to eavesdrop on poets talking shop." It's a treat to listen to, among others, Frank Bidart ("Forms are the language of desire before desire has found its object"), Maria Flook ("In `Discreet,' I seem to be talking about poetry itself, how I failed in it or how it was lost from me") and John Cage ("Using MESOMAKE, a program made at my request... I chose to have it triggered with the first three words of the text"). With 20 poems-and accompanying commentary-added to those of the first edition, this revised anthology offers a rewarding glimpse of the passion and restraint, the control and the chaos, the artifice and the chance at work in those who practice poetry. (Nov.)