Marjorie Perloff is one of the foremost critics of contemporary American poetry writing today. Regarded as highly accessible, her works are credited by many with creating and sustaining new critical interest not only in the work of major modernist poets such as Yeats, Pound, Eliot, and Williams but also in the postwar tradition of American poetic innovation that ranges from the Black Mountain poets, through the New York School and concrete poetry, to the Language Poets of the 1980s and '90s. In Differentials, Perloff explores and defends her belief in the power of close reading, a strategy often maligned as reactionary in today's critical climate but which, when construed "differentially," is vital, she believes, to any true understanding of a literary or poetic work, irrespective of how traditional or experimental it is. Perloff also examines key issues in modernism, from Eliot's "conservative" poetics and Pound's nominalism to translation theory (Wirtgenstein, Eugene Joals, Haroldo de Campos), and the contemporary avant grade, as represented by writers like Susan Howe, Tom Raworth, Rae Armantrout, Ron Silliman, Ronald Johnson, Caroline Bergvall, and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Ultimately, Perloff's most important offerings in Differentials are her remarkably original reflections on the aesthetic process: on how poetry works, and what it means, in and for our time.