"A Sun within a Sun" is a sustained poetic reflection on the enterprise of poetry, on what poetry is and might be, not only for poet and theorist, but also for reader, critic, teacher, and student. It sees poetry as life at its most genuine. Using Baudelaire and Mallarme as principal examples, but drawing on a wide range of poets and thinkers from Greek mythology to Poe, Rimbaud, Rilke, and Blake; from Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and Italo Calvino to William James and Henry Miller, Claire Chi-ah Lyu challenges contemporary poetic theory, using precise and acute deconstruction of poetic imagery to reconstruct language so that it celebrates both meaning and beauty. "A Sun within a Sun" explores the notions of lightness and weight, discipline and indulgence, freedom and loss of will that are inherent in the poetic. It poses that lightness, discipline, freedom, and risk are essential for an approach to the enigma of beauty through an elegant shaping of form that holds true not only in poetry, but also in pure science and even fashion.
Poetry is a language within a language, a heightened and intense awareness of what words mean and what they can do, at its best creating an intensity of a sun within a sun. The poet and reader of poetry must take the risk Icarus took of approaching the sun, for without the risk there is no fulfillment. "A Sun within a Sun" seeks a shaping of form and content that discovers poetry as power, as a practice of life that honors and makes possible both thought and feeling.