Second Acts: A Second Look at Second Books of Poetry: Susan Stewart and Jennifer Chang

0 0 1 ONE SINGULAR PLEASURE of this “Second Acts” column — which examines, à deux, second books of poems, one of which had appeared 20 or more years ago and the other only recently — is the chance to discover mutual sympathies between two poets and their projects, both aesthetically and in terms of subject matter. These connections may be conscious — what Goethe called “elective affinities” — or they may be unconscious. Either way, reading the texts in counterpoint can prove illuminating, even surprising. Susan Stewart and Jennifer Chang seem like an obvious pairing; the two certainly share some scholarly and poetic DNA. Both are intrepid, lucid literary critics and poets of visceral intellection. Stewart, currently Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities and professor of English at Princeton University, is such a dazzling academic (a MacArthur Fellow who has also served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she will deliver the prestigious Clarendon Lectures at Oxford University in 2020) that it might be understandable if her critical work overshadowed her poems. Fortunately, earlier this year Graywolf Press released her Cinder: New and Selected Poems to wide acclaim. New and selected volumes allow readers […]

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