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025 Hammer, Langdon.  "'Theory and Practice,'" Rev. of The Modern Element and Invasions by Adam Kirsch.  New York Times Book Review, August 31, 2008, p. 15.

Hammer begins this review of two books by Adam Kirsch [one a book of criticism, the other a book of poetry] by calling Kirsch "a poet-critic" and proceeds to define the term as it was invented and developed by T. S. Eliot in the 20th centuryA poet-critic was usually against experimental literature.  He was a formalist, valuing traditional rhyme and meter.  He saw poetry as a means of preserving the religious and the intellectual in a world sold out to science and mass culture.  Kirsch is faithful to Eliot's ideas, tracing them back to Matthew Arnold, redefining and praising the "modern element" in Arnold's poetry.  Kirsch does not find the modern element in today's poetry with its formless, scandalous verse.  Rather the "fully, genuinely modern" poet needs "the discipline of traditional form" to deal satisfactorily with contemporary experience.  Kirsch dismisses free verse from Walt Whitman's poetry on and praises the formalism of Donald Justice and Richard Wilbur.  He is impatient with James Merrill, Jorie Graham, and Louise Gluck, finding them narcissistic.  Of the 30 poets Kirsch discusses A. E. Stallings receives the only positive reading of contemporary women poets.  In his own poetry in Invasions, Kirsch discusses the decay of religious faith, the war in Iraq, and other serious subjects.  In fact "serious" is his term of highest praise.  Other characteristics of his poetry are the absence of the first person singular pronoun and the "dutiful" emotion employed to capture its apocalyptic mood.

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