Crisis, breakdown, rejuvenation: this is the territory of poetry into which Rudman takes readers with this set of essays. Constructed as a series of character studies, the essays are rooted in autobiographical material with biographical counterpoints, tying the poets distinctly to places. Even as they are placed, however, they are displaced: Rudman's subjects, from D. H. Lawrence to Czeslaw Milosz to T. S. Eliot, are almost all exiles, either geographically or within themselves.This exile spins anger into energy, transmuting emotion into imagination the same way that Passaic Falls, known to William Carlos Williams, turns water into power. The mosaic style of the essays touches on nerve after nerve, avoiding the snags of academic jargon to ease toward an illuminating truth about the artists' shifting work and worlds. Some of the Samuels - Beckett and Fuller - were able to navigate these shifts, while others - Coleridge and Johnson - are shown to be less able to transmute their energy into motion.
Mark Rudman is an adjunct professor of English at New York University and the editor in chief of Pequod. His poetry collections include The Couple, The Millennium Hotel, and Sundays on the Phone. He is the author of several books, including Realm of Unknowing: Meditations on Art, Suicide, and Other Transitions. The American Poetry Review, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, and the New Yorker have all featured his work. He lives in New York City.