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Willard Spiegelman

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University and editor in chief of the Southwest Review. The author of several books on poetry, his recent work includes How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry (Oxford, 2005) and Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt (Columbia, 2005).


Kay Ryan’s Delicate Strength

Summer 2012 | Essays

That great aesthete and reader Marilyn Monroe once said: “I read poetry because it saves time.” In the age of Twitter, and other tweet-like utterances from all sorts of birdies, not to mention attention deficit disorder on an epidemic national sc [...]

Rita Dove, Dancing

Winter 2005 | Essays

So how come there aren't more dancing poets? The title of Rita Dove's new volume promises a little more than the contents deliver, but one should be grateful for what lies within. Her earlier Grace Notes (1989) showed Dove's interest in those delicacies of thought, feeling, and expression that decoration adds to artistic enterprises. American Smooth continues its author's commitment to integrating the ornamental, the nominally "superfluous," into the weight of serious subject matter. As a kind of epigraph, she quotes two definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (of "American" and "smooth"), before producing her own titular definition: "American Smooth" is "a form of ballroom dancing derived from the traditional Standard dances (e.g., Waltz, Fox Trot, Tango), in which the partners are free to release each other from the closed embrace and dance without any physical contact, thus permitting improvisation and individual expression." Dove is taking (understandable) liberties here, but that's what a creative artist does. As anyone knows who has been put through his or her paces in ballroom instruction, there's only minimal room for improvisation in the waltz and fox-trot, but as with sonnet writing, strict limits sometimes make for innovative, liberating gestures. Dove's take on dancing has consequences for, and parallels in, her poetry.