Waldrop Keith 1932 Keith

Paid Online Writing Jobs

Get Paid to Write at Home

Get Instant Access

drop's work links metaphysical speculation to the physical textures of spoken language. His poem create momentary spaces where the spiritual and material meet. Waldrop cites the work of William bronk as "kin" and admires his early work "for its use of data from very disparate realms" ("Interview I" 278). Wal-drop's own poems are often collages of the compositional and the conversational. He once remarked, "I'm interested in poets who start with spoken language, and then make new written language out of it" ("Interview II" 270). Like Robert creeley, Waldrop employs highly enjambed lines to enact the rhythm of speech and thought as they are composed into emotional reflection and echo into "the blank which follows" (Waldrop "Notes for a Preface" n.p.).

Waldrop was born in Emporia, Kansas. After military service Waldrop enrolled in the University of Michigan's Ph.D. program in comparative literature, where he completed a dissertation entitled "Aesthetic Uses of Obscenity in Literature." Since 1962 Waldrop and his wife, the poet Rosmarie waldrop, have been operating Burning Deck, a literary press established with the intention to join the falsely polarized camps of the beats and academics (see poetry presses). In 1971 Waldrop received an Amy lowell Fellowship to study in Europe. In Paris he met Anne-Marie Albiach and Claude Royet-Journoud, two European poets, among many others, whose work Waldrop has translated into English. Waldrop has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts (1991 and 2003) and the DAAD Berlin Artists' Program (1993). A Windmill near Calvary (1968) received a National Book Award nomination, and silhouette of the Bridge (Memory Stand Ins) (1997) received the Americas Award for poetry.

Waldrop's early poems are dense lyrics that combine free and metrical verse (see prosody and free verse). His recent work has become increasingly austere and draws on the book as an architectural form embodying time's passage. A book, such as Seramis If I Remember (self portrait as mask) (2001), becomes an extended meditation on language shifting into and emerging out of the spaces of narrative and history; a map of Babylon is that book's guiding metaphor. Always elegiac, Waldrop consistently revisits the vicissitudes of memory—subjective, physical, collective—in a variety of literary forms. For Waldrop, the body is a doomed monument—simultaneously distant and proximate— memory allows the mind to intermittently behold. In "Poem from Memory" (1983), Waldrop's pithy lines enact the process of recalling his body as he "sift[s]/ ruins for / old manuscripts." Memory and the materiality of literary history are spaces suspended between the body and the mind. The tightly enclosed lines reflect the self's precarious dependence on memory for its link to language, history, and self-consciousness. The formal clarity of Waldrop's poetry contrasts with his work's philosophical risks. Waldrop tests the edges of language with song.


Waldrop, Keith. "Interview with Keith Waldrop 1993-1997 [I], by Peter Gizzi." Germ 4 (spring 2000): 275-305.

-. "Peter Gizzi Interviews Keith Waldrop 1993-1997,

Part II," by Peter Gizzi Germ. 5 (spring 2001): 270-319.

-. "Notes for a Preface." In The Opposite of Letting the

Mind Wander: Selected Poems and a Few Songs. Providence, R. I.: Lost Roads Publishers, 1990, p. n.p.

Kimberly Lamm

WALDROP, ROSMARIE (1935- ) Rosmarie Waldrop is often aligned with the language movement and feminist poets, such as Susan HOWE, Lyn hejinian, Barbara guest, Leslie scalapino, and Mei-mei berssenbrugge. Her work often contains various 20th century experimental devices, including collage, concrete poetry (see visual poetry), and procedural elements, in which linguistic and formal ingredients are borrowed from other works. She is most known for her serial prose poems, which have been compared to the work of John ashbery, Robert creeley, and Ron sil-


Waldrop was born in Kitzingen-am-Main, Germany, and emigrated to the United States in 1958 in order to attend the University of Michigan, where she received a M.A. and Ph.D. In Michigan she became associated with a group of writers who called themselves the "Walgamot Society," who consisted of Keith waldrop, X. J. KENNEDY, Donald hall, Dallas Weibe, and W D. snodgrass. She has since lived in the United States as a writer, professor, and translator. She is also the cop-ublisher of the small press, Burning Deck. Her first book of poetry, A Dark Octave, was published in 1967, and she has subsequently published numerous books of poetry, including The Reproduction of Profiles (1987), Lawn of Excluded Middle (1993), A Key into the Language of America (1994), New and Selected Poems (1997), and Another Language: Selected Poems (1997). Her list of awards are extensive and include two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1980 and 1994), a Rhode Island Governor's Art Award (1988), and a Fund for Poetry Award (1990).

Waldrop's work is rooted in a theory and practice that investigates language as both material and absence. Her experience learning English as a second language and her work as a translator have likely contributed to these artistic questions. In addition to employing various avant-garde literary techniques, her poetic discussions of language are often drawn from historical and philosophical sources. She has received most acclaim for her work in prose poems, which are usually arranged in series. In one such book, The Reproduction of Profiles, Waldrop writes: "Everything that can be thought at all, you said, can be thought over." When the poem's speaker asks for an explana tion, an unnamed you "hastily close[s] the window," a metaphor for how language can shut out understanding. What is suggested finally, is that one might "stand outside logic"—and even be stripped of it—to reach understanding and thus return to the possibility of language. The "you" and the "I" are separated by physical and linguistic barriers. Language both shuts out expressions and also opens the door to unexplored and entirely new concepts. That which is there is often also not, and vice versa. Waldrop reveals this perplexing notion of language, which, in turn, allows poetry to reveal its own lack, beauty, limits, and bounty.


Perloff, Marjorie. "Towards a Wittgensteinian Poetics." Contemporary Literature 33.2 (1992): 191-213. Retallack, Joan. "A Conversation with Rosmarie Waldrop."

Contemporary Literature 40.3 (1999): 329-377. Waldrop, Rosmarie. "Interview with Rosmarie Waldrop," by Wendy J. Burch. Poetry Flash 243 (1993): 1-13.

Amy Hezel

WAR AND ANTIWAR POETRY Twentieth-century American war poetry rarely celebrates war as a great patriotic adventure; instead it often describes, in gruesome detail, the horrors of modern warfare, fought with airplanes, trenches, barbed wire, poison gas, tanks, machine guns, and, of course, the atom bomb.

The widespread destruction of World War I (1914-18) had a sobering influence on American war poetry. Although fiercely neutral during the first years, the United States entered the war in 1917. American poets, such as Alan Seeger and E. E. cummings fought in the war. Seeger, however, enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in 1914, saw much combat, and died two years later. Seeger's (and America's) most famous World War I poem is "Rendezvous" (1917), which proclaims: "I have a rendezvous with Death / When Spring brings back blue days and fair." The contrast of impending death with the idyllic imagery of spring's "blue days and fair" reflects the loss of innocence of those who fought the war and of the supposedly "civilized" Western nations who fought the first truly mechanized war that accomplished killing on such a vast and unheroic scale. The critic Paul Fussell complains that "American writing about the war tends to be spare and one-dimensional" (158). Indeed Seeger's poem lacks the connection to classical literary works that British poets, including Wilfred owen and Siegfried Sassoon, incorporated into their war poems. While Seeger's poem seems to show an American independence from the European and classical canons, other American poets, such as T. S. eliot and Ezra pound, would soon blast their American and European readers with classical references.

American poetry of the First World War was not written only by combatants. Already-famous American writers contributed their own poems on the war, and these poems often reflected the view of the American public toward the war. Edgar Lee masters, best known for the Spoon River Anthology, lauded France's bravery and sacrifice in "O Glorious France!" (1917). His lines, such as "o France, whose sons amid the rolling thunder / of cannon stand in trenches where the dead / Clog the ensanguined ice," aspire to the pathos created by war in general but do not create the same irony as can be found in poems by Seeger. This difference highlights the effect of the new carnage of this war on those who experienced it intimately. Noncombatant poet Pound contrasts starkly with more patriotic poets, such as Masters, and captures the modernist view of the war and its effect on Western society in "Hugh Sel-wyn Mauberly (Life and Contacts)" (1920). In section Iv of this poem, Pound accuses Western society of having a deceitful hand in the death of the young men who "walked eye-deep in hell / believing old men's lies." But Pound saves his most bitter condemnation of Western civilization for the slaughter of World War I for section V of "Mauberly," where he invokes the image of "an old bitch gone in the teeth, / For a botched civilization."

American poetry of the Second World War often reflects a certain ambivalence to the carnage and purpose of war. Americans were not as naive about their place in the world nor about the evils of modern warfare as they were in 1917. "The way trench warfare dominates the imagery of World War I, the fleets of bombers and the smoking cities dominate the imagery of World War II," writes Harvey shapiro in his introduction to the 2003 Poets of World War II (xxlii). "The American poets of World War II wrote poems that are neither pious nor patriotic. . . . They viewed themselves as individuals caught in a machine so complex and far-flung the mind could not encompass it" (Shapiro xxli).

The most anthologized American war poem from the World War II is Randall jarrells "the death of the ball turret gunner" (1945), in which the speaker is described as a sort of fetus in a mother's belly. The result of the gunner's encounter with the enemy "nightmare fighters" is so gruesome that he says, "When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose." The stark images here do not include any further statements about the destruction of war, only a graphic description of a human being who is so destroyed by the enemy that he must be washed out like an unnamed mess. James Meredith asserts that, on the whole, Jarrell's poems "are evocative of both the horror of war and the balm of hope" (13). In Jarrell's best-known war poem, however, there appears to be little hope for the slaughtered airman. Meredith, instead, focuses on Jarrell's "Eighth Air Force" (1947), a poem that suggests the ambiguity of the American response to the war and to its warriors. In this poem Jarrell takes up the problems of how soldiers keep their humanity during war and of how combatants and noncombat-ants respond to the death and destruction the soldiers inflict. His speaker calls the airmen "O murderers!," but he also shows the soldiers between missions, playing "like puppies with their puppy." The puppy here is a symbol of the innocent who has the potential to be a murderer. Jarrell ends the poem unwilling to condemn the airmen as murderers or, conversely, to exonerate them as innocents: "Men wash their hands in blood, as best they can: / I find no fault in this just man." Despite Jarrell's ambiguous response to warriors in "Eighth Air Force," in other poems, such as "The Range in the Desert" (1947), he asserts that war trivializes its own greatest products ("Profits and death grow marginal") and laments that this destruction has failed to make a change ("And the world is—what it has been"). In "The War in the Air" (1987), Howard nemerov portrays the curiously antiseptic and absent nature of death for those who flew. Those who died in the air "simply stayed out there / In the clean war, the war in the air."

Depictions of the ground war in World War II added in all of the carnage that Nemerovs sarcastic phrase "the clean war" left out. Samuel menashes "Beachhead" (1961) uses the central image of a "skull / sea gulls peck." George oppens "Survival: Infantry" (1962) speaks of "the smell of explosives" and of "Iron standing in mud." Where Nemerov was able to soar in a clean world, some men, including the speaker of Oppens poem, went about on hands and knees and were "ashamed of [their] half life and [their] misery." Poems of the ground war often contain dirt, filth, and blood that reflect the soldier-poets' intimate experience of close combat.

Although many of the poems written about World War II depict battle or the results of battle, some are resolutely critical of war. In one poem pacifist William STAFFORD feels that his brother's grave is used merely as a patriotic symbol on Independence Day and calls his brother a "reluctant hero." He asks, "Who / shall we follow next?" and "Who shall we kill / next time?" ("At the Grave of My Brother: Bomber Pilot" [1970]). Perhaps the most famous poem concerning World War II pacifism is Robert lowell's "Memories of West Street and Lepke" (1959), in which the speaker is imprisoned for a year as a "fire-breathing Catholic C.O. [conscientious objector]" along with Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the boss of the infamous organized crime gang Murder, Inc. In this poem Lowell is aiming for the irony of a situation in which the speaker, who refuses to kill, is incarcerated in the same place as a man who has been convicted for killing.

World War II was also the last racially segregated war, and the segregation and inequality between caucasian and African-American soldiers is the subject of several poems of the period. Witter Bynner's "Defeat" (1947) points out that white German prisoners on a prison train eat at the same table as that of white American soldiers, while "black soldiers sit apart"; he imagines that this separation will defeat the United States. The title character in Gwendolyn brooks's poem "Negro Hero" (1945) asks, "am I good enough to die for them, is my blood bright enough to be spilled[?] . . . Am I clean enough to kill for them?" The Negro Hero, however, is not lauded like Stafford's dead brother, but is a hero who saves a people who do not wish to be saved by him.

American poetry of the vietnam War reflected, as Jeffrey Walsh writes, a "radically new consciousness of war for Americans," which was characterized by a "moral ambivalence of advanced technology" and a "backlash of public opinion" (185). Philip Beidler observes that the early vietnam War poems were "caught between 'diatribe' and 'documentary'" and were written by such poets as Robert bly, Denise lev-ertov, and Allen ginsberg (71-72). Bly's "the teeth mother naked at last" (1973) chronicles the bombing of peasant huts and the burning of children by dispassionate airmen: "This is what it's like for a rich country to make war." Much poetry of the early 1970s comes from soldiers, such as D. C. Berry and Frank Cross, whose poem "Rice Will Grow Again" (1976) recounts the killing of a vietnamese farmer and the lingering effects it has on the soldier-speaker. The world of the vietnam poem, says Beidler, is "a world of the maimed, the blasted, the dead," which is "both literally and metaphorically too awful for meaning" (131-132). The poems of Yusef komunyakaa reflect the observations and experience of a soldier in lyrical detail. "Starlight Scope Myopia" (1988) talks of how "the starlight scope" used to sight targets at night "brings / men into killing range," but much of the poem describes the scene of the viet Cong moving cargo almost as a painting of "sandalwood & lotus" and of "the full moon / loaded on an ox cart." The irony of this almost pastoral approach is that the speaker is looking through the starlight scope as he aims his M16 rifle at the beautiful scene he describes.

Among poets writing since vietnam, poet-soldier Bruce Weigl captures the lingering psychological trauma of that war on the Americans who fought it both overseas and at home in "Song of Napalm" (1985), in which he recounts the image of "the girl / running from her village, napalm / stuck to her dress like jelly." Weigl's idyllic home life with his wife (to whom the poem is dedicated) is interrupted by violent recollections of wartime atrocities represented in the famous photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phuc that appeared in Life magazine in June 1972. These lines are reminiscent of World War I British poet Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" (1917). In "Song of Napalm," Weigl imagines that the girl "rises above the stinking jungle and her pain / eases, and your pain, and mine." Such imagining seems to be a balm for the wounded soul of the soldier, for his wife, who experiences his trauma in her own way, and for America itself, but Weigl says that this "lie swings back again," and he imagines that the girl is dead and laments that "nothing . . . can deny it." In these lines he captures the problem America faces with Vietnam: We can pretend that everything turned out all right, but the truth undeniably returns to haunt us.

Twentieth-century American war poetry thus encompasses frank descriptions of carnage and soul-searching moral dilemmas. It is not gallant and heroic. War poetry of the 20th century finds little to celebrate, except, perhaps, "man's ability, indeed his compulsion, to turn terror into art" (Shapiro xx).


Beidler, Philip. American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. New York:

Oxford University Press, 1975. Meredith, James H. Understanding the Literature of World War II: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Shapiro, Harvey, ed. Poets of World War II. New York:

Library of America, 2003. Walsh, Jeffrey. American War Literature 1914 to Vietnam. New York: St. Martin's, 1982.

Gregory Byrd

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Newbies Guide To Meditation

The Newbies Guide To Meditation

Perhaps you have heard all about the healthy benefits of meditation and you have been anxious to give it a try. Let this guide teach you everything you are needing to know. Download today for yourself.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment