Kirsch, Adam 1976–
Kirsch, Adam 1976–
CAREER: Poet, writer, critic, and editor. New York Sun, book critic. Former assistant literary editor at the New Republic.
AWARDS, HONORS: New Criterion Poetry Prize, 2002, for The Thousand Wells: Poems; Alfred Hodder fellowship; Princeton University.
The Thousand Wells: Poems, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2002.
The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets: Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, and Sylvia Plath, W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, NY), 2005.
Poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Paris Review, Harvard Review, and Formalist. Book reviews published in New Republic, New York Times, Slate, and Utne Reader.
SIDELIGHTS: Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic whose first verse collection, The Thousand Wells: Poems, contains thirty-one poems separated into four parts that focus on "the seasons in the city, history and heritage, love, and reflection," as noted by Ray Olson in Booklist. The poems, written in traditional form, deal with topics ranging from accidental pregnancy to listening to Mozart on a summer day. Olson described the collection as containing "poems of wit." Quoted on the New Criterion Web site, Daniel Mark Epstein noted that the author "has already written poems that will endure."
In his book of criticism, The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets: Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, and Sylvia Plath, Kirsch examines "six poets whose daring work helped to inspire the popular mode of poetry now known as 'confessional.'" according to a Library of Congress Web site contributor. In his evaluation of these poets' works, Kirsch sets forth his belief that they all wrote in opposition to the dictum that poetry must be impersonal, as set forth by the much-admired poet T.S. Eliot prior to World War II. Instead, writes Kirsch, these poets were modernists who broke the so-called rules of their day and wrote highly personal poems that often revealed the inner turmoil of their lives. As a result, these writers became the first of those who would be referred to as confessional poets.
In a review of The Wounded Surgeon in Library Journal, Alison M. Lewis pointed out that Kirsch "takes exception to the term confessional" and added that the author's "detailed analyses … illustrates that they were not simply spewing autobiographical pap." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Kirsch provides some brief biographical information on the poets' lives "only to show how brilliantly they reworked the material for effect." The reviewer went on to praise Kirsch's analyses of Berryman's poems and noted that the book overall contains "thoughtful studies by an evenhanded critic that will no doubt urge readers back to the original texts." David Lehman, writing in the New York Times, found faults with Kirsch's critical analysis of these poets and of specific poems but also called it "a welcome change from theory-infected academic discourse." Lehman also commended Kirsch's effort because "the book assumes the value and importance of poetry as a subject of serious study." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Kirsch's "confident and comprehensive assessments … will engage any reader looking for a fresh take on some of America's best-known poets."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Ray Olson, review of The Thousand Wells: Poems, p. 196.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets: Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz, and Sylvia Plath, p. 102.
Library Journal, May 1, 2005, Alison M. Lewis, review of The Wounded Surgeon, p. 84.
New York Times, May 29, 2005, David Lehman, review of The Wounded Surgeon.
Poetry, November, 2003, Peter Campion, review of The Thousand Wells, p. 102.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 2005, review of The Wounded Surgeon, p. 56.
New Criterion Online, http://www.newcriterion.com/ (July 7, 2005), announcement of author's poetry prize.