In this book of prose, poet and essayist Sherod Santos takes a look into some of poetry's deepest secrets, an investigation that leads him to the conclusion that poems have minds of their own, minds often inaccessible even to the one who composed them. In these essays, the author explores not only what he thinks about poetry but also what and how poetry thinks about itself. His writings range across the history of Western poetry, from formative classical myths to modern experimental forms, and touch on subjects as diverse as the rhetorical history of cannibalism, the political and cultural uses of translation, and the current state of American poetry. Along the way, he calls on past poets like Ovid, Baudelaire, and Phyllis Wheatley, on 20th-century poets like Wallace Stevens, H.D. and Rainer Maria Rilke, and on writers and thinkers like Montaigne, Walter Benjamin, Simone Weil and Paul de Man. These essays explore facets of poetry known best to one who has practised the art for years.
From the methods of poetic attention to the processes by which perception is transformed into language and from the illusive relationships between poetry and "meaning" to the integral relationship between poetry and memory, this collection delves into what it means to be a poet and how being a poet is intimately tied to one's social and cultural moment.
Sherod Santos is the author of four volumes of poetry, most recently "The Pilot Star Elegies," which was nominated for the National Book Award. In 1999 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia.