RaveThe New York Review of Books...one of the most startling aspects of her career as a whole was her ability to find, seemingly effortlessly, forms and idioms appropriate to each new phase of her development. The sheer eloquence of poem after poem, whatever style or decade they happened to be written in, can take one’s breath away ... The confluence of political and personal events charted in the poems collected in Leaflets (1969), The Will to Change (1971), and Diving into the Wreck (1973) enabled Rich to dramatize her experiences during those tumultuous and troubled years with the urgency and clarity of a great autobiography or documentary ... what is often striking about Rich’s concept of \'transformative writing,\' to borrow Claudia Rankine’s formulation, is its Whitmanian inclusiveness, as well as its use of rhetorical strategies derived from one of her earliest enthusiasms, Wallace Stevens ... much of Rich’s poetry from the mid-1960s onward communicates an intoxicating sense of freedom and possibility ... It is the resilience and ebullience of Rich’s poetry that lingers in the mind, as much as her scathing diagnoses of the ills besetting the West.
MixedThe New York Review of BooksYaffe conducted two sets of interviews with Mitchell: one in 2007 for a profile in The New York Times (which she hated), and the second eight years later (by which time she’d forgiven him). These form the core of his contribution to Mitchell studies, for as a biography Reckless Daughter is definitely not to be preferred to Karen O’Brien’s much better written Shadows and Light: Joni Mitchell (2001). Still, the excerpts from his extensive interviews are revealing in a range of ways: there is much settling of old scores—with Dylan, for instance, who fell asleep when Mitchell first played him Court and Spark back in 1974, getting accused by her of plagiarism. Ex-lovers and ex-husbands also have their cards harshly marked. But why, I found myself wondering, should one expect Mitchell, alone on her pedestal as the grande dame of North American singer-songwriters, to have mellowed? For how could she have achieved what she did had she not both trusted her insights and been full of fight?
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksParker is particularly interesting on the intersection of Housman’s mournful portrayal of Shropshire as 'the land of lost content' with the elegiac strain in myths of Englishness ... Housman Country presents a comprehensive survey of the effect of such poems on successive generations. It must be acknowledged that certain chapters—such as the one on musical adaptations of Housman, or the final one on his presence in contemporary culture—read rather too much like a catalog, or a series of encyclopedia entries, and the book overall would have benefited from a stronger narrative shape. But many of the responses, tributes, and recollections unearthed by Parker are both striking and moving.
RaveThe Guardian...[an] illuminating account of his early life ... Ashbery found himself in circles of brilliant, artistically inclined and often gay men and women, but seems never to have felt as exuberantly at home in these shifting coteries as the effervescent O’Hara. A portrait by Fairfield Porter of 1952 – one of the many superb illustrations included in this book – presents a slumped and melancholy figure. He fell in love often and deeply, but Roffman records more disappointments and frustrations than triumphs. Until, that is, the annus mirabilis of 1955 ... The last photo in this entertaining and brilliantly researched book shows a dapper young Ashbery in a smart overcoat on the streets of Montpellier. I think he is almost smiling.