"Holden is the first critic I've read in a long time who so ambitiously maps out promising fields for poets to labor in."
—X. J. Kennedy
"Brilliant, careful, and necessary."
Are we witnessing the death of American poetry? Many critics have charged as much, pointing to a poetry that is increasingly marginal, specialized, and cloistered. Challenging such doomsayers, Jonathan Holden offers a hopeful appraisal of the current state of American poetry. Examining the reasons behind the loss of readership and diminished status of poetry in America, Holden blames the advent of modernism and the institutionalization of the modernist tradition in university English departments. Although in many ways the American university's overwhelming support of poetry has left the art more vigorous than ever, it has also encouraged a mass production of mediocre verse.
Holden contends that the best postwar American poets have shed the elitist vestiges of modernism and have enlarged both the capabilities of poetry and its appeal to a general audience by incorporating subject matter formerly confined to other genres. In discussing contemporary poems Holden illustrates how American poetry, by including a more diverse subject matter, can assert some just claim to a wider audience--a literate audience of nonspecialists.