Seeing Clear

X.J. Kennedy is admired for his great skill in treating contemporary topics in traditional forms and especially for his cultivation of light verse.  The high quality, abundance, and breadth of his writing—poetry, children’s work, fiction, textbooks—and his long presence on the literary scene make him one of the most important American poets today, as is suggested by reviewers’ praise in eminent periodicals, including the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Times Book Review.  That he is, nevertheless, often disregarded is doubtless because of the widespread assumption that light verse cannot be truly important.  It is also an unflattering reflection on those critics and reviewers, the greater number, who disdain form and other aspects of poetic tradition and still, nearly a century later, cry, with Ezra Pound, “Make it new.”  Indeed, Kennedy does “make it new,” with his own characteristic tone and diction and his choice of topics, but in a nonradicalized mode.  The present book gathers work, including some not reprinted for a long while, from six previous collections (especially later ones) and several slimmer volumes; it also contains more than two-dozen new poems collected for the first time.

Throughout, Kennedy’s writing illustrates what almost every literate person knows, even though many write as if they thought otherwise:...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here