The Long Poem and the Career of the Modernist Poet: Williams, Crane, Stevens, H.D., and Others
This longish paper traces a process of career development common to a number of modernist poets, and attempts in a rough way to theorize the common elements from inception in a lyric phase (where many poets are content to rest), to breakthrough in an “initiation poem,” to full flowering in a long poem. This development is necessarily accompanied by the formation of a personal poetics and a sociopolitical stance, which together inform the intellectual matter of the long poem. In the process, my paper theorizes the difference between a “major” and a “minor” poet, at least in the modernist era, assesses the crucial activity of the long poem, and offers other clues to evaluation and canonization – issues that have become decidedly unpopular these days. It is unpublished, but I stand by it as a rule of thumb and general guide. I value the description of one reader, who told me that my thesis has holes big enough to drive a truck through, but that it was still a useful index of consideration. My fascination with the long poem is related to my concern for the minimizing, in fact the trivializing of poetry as a genre through the process now called “lyricization,” a major theme of my book The Patriot Poets. Young poets might give more thought in advance to the notion of “career development,” in addition to the pursuit of readership and name recognition that normally preoccupies them. (NB: Part II of this paper was written freely, and needs fact checking.)



"Williams' Vita Nuova: Spring and All as Initiation Poem, or The Red Wheelbarrow in Context" 
This paper on Williams’ masterpiece Spring and All – the original text of prose interspersed with poems published in 1923 and not again until 1970 – was an offspring of the ideas in my Careers paper. It remained unpublished because I discuss Williams’ great work as an “initiation poem” – a concept that makes no sense apart from the previous paper. I have since discovered that the genre of prose alternating with poetry, practised in Latin, Sanskrit, and Arabic well before Dante’s La Vita Nuova, has a name: it is a “prosimetrum.” This does not undermine my argument about La Vita Nuova and Williams.


"T.S. Eliot's So-Called Sestina: A Note on 'The Dry Salvages, II'."  English Language Notes 15 (March 1978): 203-208
I became exasperated while studying Eliot’s Four Quartets (to me the most profound poem of the twentieth century) with references to Eliot’s “sestina” in “The Dry Salvages.” The work is clearly not a sestina, and its background is considerably more interesting.


"Black Cottages: Frost, Eliot, and the Fate of Individualism." Cithara 22 (November 1982): 39-52
I still think Frost’s “The Black Cottage” is possible the richest work intellectually in his oeuvre. The contrast between Frost’s response to Emerson and Eliot’s led me to group a number of poems together under Hayden White’s term “metahistory”: these two poems, plus Pound’s “Near Perigord,” Williams’ “History,” and Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead.” This essay, which I wrote quickly in the midst of lecturing, was an odd one out in my work, but I now see in it the seeds of my book The Patriot Poets.


"'The Noisiest Novel Ever Written': The Soundscape of Henry Roth's Call It Sleep." Twentieth Century Literature 35 (Spring 1989): 43-64
Like many readers, I was led to Henry Roth’s masterpiece of narration by the unusual backstory of its publication. Having taught the book with great satisfaction in my undergraduate course, and struck by the paucity of criticism, I determined to write my only published essay on prose fiction. Roth was still alive at the time, and I am glad to say that he and his wife were greatly pleased by my approach through soundscape.


"'The Ordinary Women': Stevens' Fantasia on a Theme by Longfellow." Wallace Stevens Journal 18 (Fall 1994): 170-174
My only contribution to the extensive scholarship on the poet who led me to a career in literature.


Philip Freneau’s Summa of American Exceptionalism: “The Rising Glory of America” without Brackenridge
This article is now the first chapter of The Patriot Poets, and since it is available on line anyway, I include it here.


“'Speaking as an American to Americans’: James Russell Lowell’s ‘Harvard Commemoration Ode’ and the Idea of Nationhood." In Martin Green & Christopher Herbert, eds., Stories of Nation: Fictions, Politics, and the American Experience (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2017), 73-97.  

Now Chapter 4 of The Patriot Poets and in many ways the ideological core of the book. I had not read Jill Lepore’s revisionist These Truths: A History of the United States (2018) before publishing The Patriot Poets, but I am happy to say that my perspective coincides closely with hers, largely because of a shared focus on Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and Lincoln.


Review Articles


"Yeats and the Occult by George Mills Harper." Four Decades (Summer, l977).


A Thought to Be Rehearsed: Aphorism in Wallace Stevens' Poetry by Beverly Coyle. Canadian Review of American Studies 20 (1988), 134-35.

Coyle’s examination of Stevens’ use of aphorism points to a rupture in modernist demands for nothing but concrete, sensuous language, and a peculiar link backward to Enlightenment “grandeur of the generality” and ideational content.


The Ghost of Meter: Culture and Prosody in American Free Verse by Annie Finch. Canadian Review of American Studies 25 (1995), 142-45.

Annie Finch’s book gave me some key ideas that germinated in the Free Verse chapter of Poetic Designs. It also hints at a theory of an “American prosody” that deserves greater development


The Birth of New Criticism: Conflict and Conciliation in the Early Work of William Empson, I.A. Richards, Laura Riding, and Robert Graves by Donald Childs. English Studies in Canada 40 (December 2014), 127–30.