Part guidebook for emerging poets and part homage to a wide range of major poets, Teicher’s We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress...is one of the most enjoyable books about poetry I have encountered. His obvious love of poetry infuses the book with the 'grace, certainty, power, and humility' he so admires in one of his literary heroines, Lucille Clifton. Additionally, because he surveys a diverse group of writers, providing relevant biographical background and anecdotes from their lives and his own, We Begin in Gladness is a book with wide appeal ... It is interesting to review a book that is in conversation with many other books and that reviews works by other writers. In that sense, Teicher’s work offers lessons for art critics, too ... Teicher’s praise for their best poetry is tempered by his honest appraisals of their weaker efforts ... both a subtle commentary on critique and an encouraging anecdote for any poet who questions the quality of their own work ... Teicher’s book is full of insights...and it’s a pleasure to see how the poets he features in it are in conversation with one another across time (generations, even) and space. Though not necessarily a craft book, We Begin in Gladness does what all good craft books aim, but so often fail, to do—it makes the reader want to go and investigate the many works of poetry the author references and to learn more about their makers, much as (as Teicher asserts) 'a real poem points to everything beyond it.'
We Begin in Gladness is well worth reading for its celebration of the art, and for placing poetry as a necessity in today's frenzied society—where dystopian fiction sells well, and too few people take time to read. Teicher's examination of poets' artistic maturation is an engaging topic. If his conclusions are informed by his own taste, we can appreciate him as a generous guide through his chosen profession ... There may be readers who would prefer to have had more background threaded through Teicher's thoughtful examination of the poetic life. The presumption that poetry is a language of common parlance would be welcome if true. But alas, it is not.
Teicher perceptively identifies the philosophical undercurrents in much of 20th- and 21st-century poetry and highlights important patterns of poetic influence. Yet he tends to neglect another key part of any poet’s development: the awakening of his or her political sensibility ... By overlooking questions of social justice and the politics of language, Teicher offers us a portrait of these poets that, however well rendered, is nevertheless incomplete.