How do we read the work of poets who die young? Recent books by Joan Murray and Max Ritvo have me thinking about the question with a special intensity. Ritvo died of Ewing’s sarcoma in 2016 at just twenty-five, with two posthumous volumes — The Final Voicemails: Poems and Letters from Max — published last year. Murray, who won the Yale Younger Poets award, died at nearly the same age, in 1942; Drafts, Fragments, and Poems: The Complete Poetry has just been painstakingly edited by Farnoosh Fathi and published by NYRB Poets.
How do we read the work of poets who die young? Recent books by Joan Murray and Max Ritvo have me thinking about the question with a special intensity.
The poet and literary critic Hillary Gravendyk organized a roundtable on the “Poet-Scholar” for the 2013 MLA Convention in Boston, with participants Juliana Spahr, Jennifer Scappettone, Julie Carr, Heather Dubrow, Margaret Ronda, and Barrett Watten.
Contemporary so-called “innovative” or “experimental” poetry’s fascination and engagement with the theoretical and the critical owes a lot to the Language poets, who, though not the first to approach the composition of poetry as an intellectual enterprise, did offer what Marjorie Perloff characterizes as a “rapprochement between poetry and theory” that could serve as an alternative to the increasingly anti-intellectual creative writing classroom of the 1970s.