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This book considers the lyric poems written by John Clare and three twentieth-century poets--Arthur Symons, Edmund Blunden, and John Ashbery--who turned to him at pivotal moments in their own development. These writers crafted a distinctive mode of lyric, "Clare's lyric," that emphatically grounds its truth claims in mimetic accuracy. For these writers, accurate representation involves not only words that name objects, describe scenes, and create images pointing to a shared reality but also patterns of sound, the syntactic organization of lines, and the shapes of whole poems and collections of poems. Their works masterfully investigate how poetic language and form can refer to the world, word by word, line by line, and poem by poem.
Written in a lively and accessible style, Clare's Lyric sheds light on a richly diverse body of poems and on enduring questions about how literature represents reality. Weiner's attentive close readings bring the writings of Clare, Symons, Blunden, and Ashbery to life by revealing precisely how they captured a vital, arresting, and complex world in their poems. Their unique approach to lyric is traced from Clare's poems about birdsong, his sonnets, and his later poems of loss and absence to Symons's efforts to make "amends to nature" Blunden's vivid depictions of a European and English countryside scarred by the First World War, and Ashbery's unbounded and bountiful landscapes. This inventive study refines our understanding of the aesthetic of Romanticism, the genre of lyric, and the practice of literary representation, and it makes a compelling case for the ongoing importance of poems about nature and social life.
Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, Professor of English, Wesleyan University
Stephanie Kuduk Weiner teaches British literature in the English Department at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, USA. She received her undergraduate degree in English and Women's Studies from the University of Minnesota, and her doctorate in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University. Her first book was Republican Politics and English Poetry, 1789-1874 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). She has written widely about Romantic and Victorian British poetry, including the work of Ernest Dowson, Arthur Hugh Clough, Algernon Swinburne, William Blake, and John Clare. She is an enthusiastic gardener, backyard birder, and long-distance walker.
Table of Contents
Part I: Clare's lyric technique
1. Sound, language, and the lyric subject in the middle period poems
2. Form and structure: the sonnets
3. Representing absence: time, place, and the language of poetry in the asylum poems
Part II: Clare's lyric in the twentieth century
4. Arthur Symons: mimesis after aestheticism
5. Edmund Blunden: no man's land
6. John Ashbery: an impossible calque of reality