"I have heard writers refer to [William Logan] as ‘the most hated man in American poetry,’ a title one could be proud of in this time of fawning and favor-trading."--Robert McDowell, Hudson Review
"Is there today a more stringent, caring reader of American poetry than William Logan? Reputations of the Tongue may, at moments, read harshly. But this edge is one of deeply considered and concerned authority. A poet-critic engages closely with his masters, with his peers, with those whom he regards as falling short. This collection is an adventure of sensibility."--George Steiner
William Logan has been called the most dangerous poetry critic since Randall Jarrell. A critic of intensity and savage wit, he is the most irritating and strong-minded reviewer of contemporary poetry we have. A survey of American, British, and Irish poetry in the eighties and early nineties, Reputations of the Tongue is a book of poetry criticism more honest than any since Jarrell’s Poetry and the Age.
The book opens with an essay arguing with Eliot over tradition and individual talent; it closes with a close scrutiny of contemporary British and Irish poetry. At the heart of the book are long essays on W. H. Auden, W. D. Snodgrass, Donald Justice, and Geoffrey Hill--and the reviews of major and minor contemporary poets that have earned Logan his reputation.
Appearing in publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, Poetry, Parnassus, and Sewanee Review, Logan’s reviews have been noted for their violence, intelligence, candor, and humor. Many aroused tempers on first publication, leading one Pulitzer Prize winner to offer to run the critic over with a truck. Even as he tackles the radical excess of Ashbery and Ginsberg, however, Logan lauds the rich quietudes of Elizabeth Bishop and James Merrill, the froth and verbal fervor of Amy Clampitt, the philosophical comedies of Gjertrud Schnackenberg.
The essays in this collection take the long view. Aspiring to more than miscellany or gossip, Reputations of the Tongue is the work of a critic for whom the reviewing of poetry is still a high calling.
William Logan is the author of four books of poems, Sad-faced Men (1982), Difficulty (1985), Sullen Weedy Lakes (1988), and Vain Empires (1998), and a book of criticism, All the Rage (1998). He has won the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets and the Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. He teaches at the University of Florida, where he is Alumni/ae Professor of English. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, and Cambridge, England.
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"These essays . . . address contemporary poets of the Eighties and Nineties with wit and intelligence and a fierce belief in principles. While many may not agree with Logan's views, this winner of the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing is bound to stimulate." -- Library Journal Library Journal's Academic Newswire
"If his tone is sometimes acerbic and his remarks sometimes harsh, his fearless honesty is nonetheless refreshing. Readers will appreciate his thoughtful analysis and thorough knowledge of each poet's work, as well as his obvious love of the genre."--Library Journal Library Journal
"Firmly establishes him as the preeminent poet-critic of his generation with none of the back-slapping mutual-admiration-society stuff that passes for literary comment these days. Logan's hard-hitting reviews and carefully measured essays rely on wit, grace, and learning. . . . A masterful survey of contemporary verse."--Kirkus Reviews Kirkus Reviews
"Reputations of the Tongue speaks a truth acknowledged by poets in private but not in public. 'A gifted mediocrity prevails' in contemporary American and British poetry. This plight makes our period neither better nor worse that others, but examining causes and naming overhyped names is bad for business and morale. But if poetry is to matter, then it must generate thoughtful reviewing that fearlessly conveys the turbulence of the 'act of reading, its furies as well as its gratifications.' William Logan's critical bedevilments -- as well as his celebrations -- are indispensable."-- Boston Globe Boston Globe
"For Logan, each poet, each poem present a separate case, one that he judges without theory, dogma, or unnecessary recourse to the personal life, but rather by gauging the effect of the words on the page."-- New Criterion New Criterion
"An invigoratingly diverse, coherently informed chronicle of assessments of first (or latest) volumes and established reputations. . . . A vlove worth holding on to."-- Times Literary Supplement Times Literary Supplement
"He is both a theorist of the imagination and a good pratical critic." - World Literature Today World Literature Today
"Desperate Measures proffers a bundle of outstanding critical commentary, treating poetry with the schooled sensibility and arrogance of taste that best requites the art's convulted demands upon our attention." The Georgia Review