The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 24, 2007

FSG Insiders Week

I've been promising this from the beginning of this blog journey, and finally it's here: FSG insiders week! I've been saving up these posts penned by editors, designers, publicists, and assistants about what their role is in creating a book of poetry.

I thought we'd start with Associate Publisher and Vice President Linda Rosenberg's post on new introductions to reissued works of poetry:

One of the true pleasures for me, as the series editor of the FSG Classics program, has been to commission new introductions to reissues of classic volumes from FSG's great poetry backlist … John Ashbery on James Schuyler's Selected Poems, W. S. Merwin on John Berryman’s Dream Songs, August Kleinzahler on Thom Gunn's The Man with Night Sweats, just for a start. 

There is no analysis of a poem—of its structure, its flow, its magical conjunction of  essence and form—like one undertaken by another poet. This is even more true if that poet has also been a good friend, one with a unique understanding of the evolution of the writer and the writing. I feel privileged to have been able to gain not just a larger understanding but also a more intimate sense of  these writers and their poems through my work on the introductions to these volumes.

For example, when I spoke with W. S. Merwin about his introduction to John Berryman's Dream Songs, he remembered occasions on which, as Berryman's student, he was present for Berryman's readings of his poems that were so riveting that they were electric… These recollections ultimately took form in his introduction, in which Merwin wrote:

"John had always read in the way he did most things, with a heated passion, and his memory for poetry and for details of the lives of poets were compendious and clear.   It all seemed  to be present and immediate to him, and endowed with a final authority. Once, in his thirties, after a bookstore reading of poems by other poets whom he loved—in this case, Hardy and Yeats—someone had been so foolish as to ask him whether he did not, perhaps, take these things too seriously, and he had answered, 'They’re a matter of life and death.'"

You can buy the new edition of John Berryman's Dream Songs, with the introduction by W. S. Merwin, here, here, or here. We'll have more from Linda Rosenberg later today.


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