The Making of the PoetBook - 2008
“Who would have looked for philosophy in whales, or for poetry in blubber?” the London John Bull remarked in October of 1851. And yet, the reviewer went on, “few books which professedly deal in metaphysics, or claim the parentage of the muses, contain as much true philosophy and as much genuine poetry as the tale of the Pequod's whaling expedition.” A decade and a half before surprising the world with a book of Civil war poetry, Melville was already confident of what was “poetic” in his prose. As Hershel Parker demonstrates in this book, Melville was steeped in poetry long before he called himself a poet.
Here Parker, the dean of Melville studies, gives a compelling, in-depth account of how one of America’s greatest writers grew into the vocation of a poet. His work corrects two of the most pernicious misconceptions about Melville perpetuated by earlier critics: that he repudiated fiction writing after Pierre, and that he hadn’t begun writing poetry (let alone had a book of poems ready for publication) as early as 1860. In clearing up these misapprehensions, Parker gives a thorough and thoroughly involving account of Melville’s development as a poet. Parker demonstrates for the first time just how crucial poetry was to Melville from childhood to old age, especially its re-emergence in his life after 1849. Drawing on Melville's shrewd annotations of great British poets and on his probing, skeptical engagement with commentaries on poetry (particularly by the great Scots reviewers), Parker paints a richly textured portrait of a hitherto unseen side of Herman Melville.
Baker & Taylor
Details Melville's reading of poetry and writings about poetry along with criticism of his poetic works.
According to this new study by Parker (English emeritus, U. of Delaware) Melville was expert in the works of poets only dimly understood or even acknowledged by modern critics, and read across a wide range of schools and eras. Parker also points out that Melville's love of poetry was complex and included obsession and frustration. Parker provides the considerable fruits of his research into original sources in which Melville and his correspondents developed an enduring and complete aesthetic, working from the 1820s to Melville's second volume of poems. Most interesting is the evidence that Melville thought of himself as primarily a poet, whatever else he wrote or whether or not his poetry was published. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)