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The Kenyon Review – Spring 2007

This issue of The Kenyon Review contains three absolutely delicious article-length book reviews of collected letters: The Letters of Robert Lowell (2005), reviewed by Willard Spiegelman; Love Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt (2005), reviewed by Sam Pickering; and A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright (2005), reviewed by Saskia Hamilton. (Hamilton’s review is double, covering also the 2005 Selected Poems by James Wright.) These critiques of three great 20th century poets emphasize the personal letter—that intimate form of correspondence, sadly retired in our internet-driven world—as an art form. The reviewers’ insights into the life and work of Lowell, Clampitt, and Wright renew my reverence for them; yes, I will read the letters and return once again to their poetry!

This issue of The Kenyon Review contains three absolutely delicious article-length book reviews of collected letters: The Letters of Robert Lowell (2005), reviewed by Willard Spiegelman; Love Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt (2005), reviewed by Sam Pickering; and A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright (2005), reviewed by Saskia Hamilton. (Hamilton’s review is double, covering also the 2005 Selected Poems by James Wright.) These critiques of three great 20th century poets emphasize the personal letter—that intimate form of correspondence, sadly retired in our internet-driven world—as an art form. The reviewers’ insights into the life and work of Lowell, Clampitt, and Wright renew my reverence for them; yes, I will read the letters and return once again to their poetry!

I found the new poetry in this issue less satisfying; I prefer poems with strong use of imagery and appeal to the senses. In general, imagery was not central to these poems, but tended to be interspersed among abstract and esoteric utterances. A poem that drew my attention for its thought-provoking immediacy was Carl Dennis’s “A Visit to West Point,” in which a Cadet Fuscaro offers “English majors in uniform” a “Powerpoint presentation / On stream of consciousness in Virginia Woolf.” Also noteworthy is a new series by Roger Rosenblatt called “Just Not for Us”: comic essays on the trials and tribulations of being a writer, and a compelling excerpt from Tara Ison’s forthcoming novel, The List. The black-and-white photo, “Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico,” by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide makes for the best magazine cover I’ve seen lately.
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