Gardner, Thomas 1952-

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GARDNER, Thomas 1952-


Born 1952. Education: Bucknell University, B.A., 1974; Syracuse University, M.A., 1976; University of Wisconsin, Ph.D. (English), 1982.


Office—Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Department of English, 323 Shanks Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24060-0112. E-mail—[email protected].


Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, assistant professor, 1982-88, associate professor, 1988-96, professor of English, 1996—, director of honors program, 1988-96.


Modern Language Association (member of executive committee, 1989-94).


National Endowment for the Humanities stipend, 1988; Alumni Teaching Award, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 1991; Diggs Teaching Scholar Award, 1994; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1995-96; Fulbright Bicentennial Chair in American Studies at University of Helsinki, 1996-97; Sturm Award for outstanding faculty research, Phi Beta Kappa, 2001; Guggenheim fellowship, 2002-03.


Discovering Ourselves in Whitman: The Contemporary American Long Poem, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1989.

The Mime, Speaking: Poems, Mellen Poetry Press (Lewiston, NY), 1992.

Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1999.

(With Marion Gardner and William Gardner) Three for a Dime: A Family Album (memoir), Allegheny Press (Blacksburg, VA), 2000.

Contributor to books, including Migration, Preservation, and Change, edited by Jeffrey Kaplan, Renvall Institute (Helsinki, Finland), 1999, and American Women Poets of the Twenty-first Century, edited by Claudia Rankine, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals, including Essays in Literature, Sagetrieb, Poesis, Emily Dickinson Journal, Hollins Critic, Talisman, Wallace Stevens Journal, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, and others. Guest editor and member of editorial board, Contemporary Literature, 1989—, and "University of Wisconsin North American Poetry" series.


Contribution to Essays on Poetry, edited by Jorie Graham, University of Wisconsin Press; Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Writers, for Oxford University Press.


Thomas Gardner has been a member of the English department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute since 1982. He is a poet and author of a number of books and articles about poetry and has been a featured guest editor of three editions of Contemporary Literature. He has received many awards in his field, including the Fulbright Bicentennial Chair in American Studies and a Guggenheim fellowship.

In his first book, Discovering Ourselves in Whitman: The Contemporary American Long Poem, Gardner explores elements of Walt Whitman's work found in the modern long poem. He investigates the selected works of poets such as John Berryman, Galway Kinnell, Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, and James Merrill. A critic for Sewanee Review commented that Gardner "makes Whitman's views of language central both to defining 'self' and 'other.' … Whitman's 'creation of a self-portrait out of his indirect embrace of a medium' … supplies the measures for resemblance and difference." This critic found that although Gardner allows "attention to be paid [to] Duncan's 'Passages,' use of his model for selecting and understanding texts and poets.… does not always provide for presentation what is the best work of a writer." James E. Miller, Jr. commented in the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review that the text "provides a fruitful framework for Gardner to offer his keen insights into a number of intricately constructed poems." Glenn Sheldon in American Literature was critical of Gardner's choice of poets, noting "the disappointing choice of John Ashbery's work over Allen Ginsberg's," but applauded "Gardner's decision to include Kinnell." Sheldon concluded that Discovering Ourselves in Whitman "will be obligatory for Berryman, Kinnell, Roethke, Duncan, Ashbery, and Merrill scholars, but it remains a conservative scholarly work precisely because of the recurring problematics within the Whitmanesque tradition." However, Miller called special attention to Gardner's focus on Ashbery, finding his discussion of the poet "entirely persuasive." Tina Barr in the Journal of Modern Literature wrote that Gardner's "close readings are perceptive" and that the "book's argument contributes to our understanding and recognition of an emergent poetry as radical as Whitman's."

Gardner's Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry is a study of modern poetry that L. Berk in Choice called "an interesting and informative appreciation" of the works of poets Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass, and Michael Palmer. The reviewer commented that interviews with Graham, Hass, and Palmer make the "chapters on these poets … stronger and more resonant" than those on the other two. Scott Hightower in Library Journal called the work "highly academic," and commented that "this book is recommended only for those scholars who are comfortable uttering the names Ezra Pound and Jorie Graham in the same sentence." Contemporary Literature's Roger Gilbert praised Gardner's inclusion of interviews with three of the poets featured in the text, noting that this approach "broaden[s] the terms of the discussion while confirming the poets' own deliberate engagement with the issues of representation stressed in the readings."



American Literature, December, 1990, Glenn Sheldon, review of Discovering Ourselves in Whitman: The Contemporary American Long Poem, p. 738

Boston Review, February-March, 2001, Andrew Osborn, review of Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry.

Choice, June, 2000, L. Berk, review of Regions of Unlikeness, p. 1814.

Contemporary Literature, winter, 2001, Roger Gilbert, "Contemporary Poetry in Three-Point Perspective."

Journal of Modern Literature, fall-winter, 1990, review of Discovering Ourselves in Whitman, p. 312.

Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Scott Hightower, review of Regions of Unlikeness, p. 85.

Sewanee Review, fall, 1991, review of Discovering Ourselves in Whitman, pp. 612-613.

Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, summer, 1991, James E. Miller, Jr., review of Discovering Ourselves in Whitman.


Virginia Tech Department of English Web site, (May 14, 2003), "Thomas Gardner."