The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 24, 2007

FSG Insider Week, Part 2

More from Associate Publisher Linda Rosenberg, this time with commentary about August Kleinzahler new introduction to Thom Gunn's The Man With The Night Sweats (and, as a reminder, we had two recordings by Thom Gunn posted on the blog earlier this month, and stay tuned, because August Kleinzahler will be coming on later this week to regale us with his tales of hanging out with Thom Gunn in San Francisco):

"August Kleinzahler's long friendship with Thom Gunn, perhaps made easier by each man’s adoption of San Francisco as his home city, surely enhanced his understanding and respect for the rigor and integrity of Gunn’s best work.  In his introduction to The Man With Night Sweats, Kleinzahler considers both the poet and the man—as well as the 1980s, the terrible decade of which Gunn wrote.  In Kleinzahler’s words:

“[A] central component of his mature poetry is its voice, which is highly unusual for a poet writing in the second half of the twentieth century. Gunn early on came under the influence of the Elizabethan poets Shakespeare, Donne, and Jonson, in which there’s no identifiable personality to the ‘I,’ the voice in the poetry.  Even in the most intimate poems, the voice is detached, impersonal. On top of this, Gunn favors what is called the plain style, a taste he picked up from one of his mentors, Yvor Winters. One its chief exemplars is Ben Jonson, a poet Gunn valued very highly and, to an extent, modeled his own work on. The plain style is just that: clear in diction and movement, devoid of rhetoric and poetic figures, inclining toward the way people speak without sounding colloquial. Gunn’s fascination with the city as a backdrop for character and event, along with his anachronistically distanced, rather neutral voice, turned out to be the perfect mix for his poetic witnessing of the plague he was soon to find himself in the midst of.”

Like the FSG poetry blog itself, the aim of our reissue program is to provide an easy entryway into this special world inhabited by some of the most extraordinary poets of the last 60 years…. From John Berryman to James Schuyler, from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell and beyond, it's our hope that our volumes—most with new introductions by poets of today—will make it easier for new readers and old to find their way into these extraordinary books. Due to the unique power of the form, most of these works seem to acquire an even greater resonance as time passes. It may just be that the impact of deeply felt, finely wrought language is even more intense in a less literate age."

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