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Proofs & Theories (Paper)


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About the Author

Louise Gluck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Wild Iris in 1993. The author of eight books of poetry and one collection of essays, Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry, she has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. She was named the next U.S. poet laureate in August 2003. Her most recent book is The Seven Ages. Louise Gluck teaches at Williams College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Gluck (Pulitzer Prize winner for The Wild Iris, LJ 5/15/92) here presents an uneven collection of essays on modern and contemporary poetry. Some of the essays are written in a lucid prose style. For instance, "Disruption, Hesitation, Silence," the best of the volume, compares the poetry of John Berryman, George Oppen, and T.S. Eliot, associating each with an adjectival attribute in the title. However, many of the essays need more analysis of the poets covered. For example, the essay "On Stanley Kunitz" (Gluck's mentor) is too short for a tribute and fails to infuse any germane thought into his poetry. At times, Gluck is able to pull off the improbable comparison of these very different poets in a creative twist of her imagination. Perhaps the lack of development in many of the essays results because Gluck "doesn't trust [her] prose." She holds back from explaining her theories and developing her proofs, which leaves the reader wanting more. For literary collections.-Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, Pa.

Although Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gluck ( The Wild Iris ) maintains that she is ``uneasy with commentary,'' her collection of 16 essays, all previously published in literary journals, is often profound. The subjects of her writing include poets Stanley Kunitz, Hugh Seidman, T. S. Eliot; the future (considered in a 1993 Williams College graduation address); education; and the nature of courage. Yet the real lure of her commentary is sensibility, even more than subject. As with her poetry, Gluck's prose is fine and pared but visionary; her intelligence is precise and earnest. She uses mind as a moral power, whether addressing experience or literature. For instance, in ``Disinterestedness,'' Gluck writes in support of an ideal of reading with nearly bias-free receptivity that literary theorists may scoff, but is liberating and persuasive as she explains it. Here and elsewhere, Gluck's brevity, clarity and resolute independence are impressive. (Aug.)

As with her poetry, Gluck's prose is fine and pared but visionary; her intelligence is precise and earnest. . . . Here and elsewhere Gluck's brevity, clarity, and resolute independence are impressive.--Publishers Weekly
This first collection of [Gluck's] essays is written in a different medium [than her poetry], but it contains the same dark precision, the same spare fates and paradoxes. . . Proofs and Theories. . . is certainly a provocative book. . . it is the prickly poetic testament and memoir of one of America's finest poets. --Poetry Flash
With this book, [Gluck] becomes the patron saint of poets and writers, having fallen and crawled and scared herself to a position from which she reticently gives advice.--Los Angeles Times Book Review

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