Reviews | March 01, 1988

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Any attempt to compare poets as accomplished as Amy Clampitt, Gerald Stern, C.K. Williams, and Donald Justice poses an ethical problem, for each has created work that demands a distinctive reading.  It would be absurd to measure Justice, for instance, by Clampitt, or Stern by Williams.  Nor is there space here to link the poets by common historical affiliations.  Certainly, Justice and Clampitt are heirs of Wallace Stevens, just as Stern and Williams are heirs of William Carlos Williams, but the Stevens modes that Justice and Clampitt employ are not the same, and Stern and Williams have learned different lessons from Dr. Williams.  Nevertheless, I would like to approach these new books by discussing them within the framework of a common issue: how a poet of the first order achieves, in our time, a dimension sufficient to make poetry that will matter.

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