Jennifer Ashton

What is the place of lyric in modern and contemporary poetry?

Lyric, meaning "of or pertaining to the lyre," has a concertedly interdisciplinary origin rooted in its practice of bringing poetry together with music. As many critics—including those responding below—have shown, the lyric has had a long and complicated history, the term evoloving over the centuries to take on different valences, connotations, and even denotations. So what does lyric mean today and in our recent past? Does lyric retain in some way its relation to the lyre, pictured above in Henry Oliver Walker's Library of Congress mural Lyric Poetry (1896)? Where do we find lyric in modern and contemporary poetry? And what might the future of lyric look like? —Katie L. Price

Respondents: Jennifer Ashton, Julia Bloch, Virginia Jackson, Susannah B. Mintz 

Michael Golston: Improbable history — Jennifer Ashton's misrepresentations

Jennifer Ashton,  From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). [Michael Golston's review was originally published in the William Carlos Williams Review, Volume 28, Number 1-2, Spring/Fall 2008. Reprinted by permission of the author.]

I once had the good fortune to take a course with U.C. Berkeley’s Julian Boyd on the history of the English language. Occasionally, as a student in the class struggled with the finer points of deontic modality or the differences between “shall” and “will,” Boyd would suddenly glare at whomever was speaking and announce with mock sternness, “You are exactly wrong.” 


 That’s how I feel about Jennifer Ashton’s book.

First reading of Rae Armantrout's 'Spin' (1)

Jennifer Ashton

Jennifer Ashton, Rae Armantrout

We are pleased to publish the first of five first readings of Rae Armantrout’s poem “Spin,” collected in Money Shot (Wesleyan, 2011). The text of the poem appears below. It happens that Armantrout’s PennSound page includes a recording of her performing the poem: here is that recording. Jennifer Ashton teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 2005) and edited The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry since 1945 (Cambridge, 2013). Her most recent article, “Poetry and the Price of Milk,” on the politics of contemporary poetry, can be found on, where she is a founding member of the board. She is currently at work on a new book, “Labor and the Lyric.” — Brian Reed, Craig Dworkin, and Al Filreis

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