What Persists
Selected Essays on Poetry from The Georgia Review, 1988–2014

Judith Kitchen

Essays and reflections on the poetry of the last twenty-five years


"Judith Kitchen refused to suffer the trendy, the power-mongered, the almost-poem, and the cant (and simply the can’t) that permeate the poetry world. Of her own criticism she said at one point, ‘Does this make me sound like [a] curmudgeon? Partly . . . but it also makes me . . . the reader in search of something subtle, even magical.’ For twenty-six years—for a generation—Judith introduced us to, and defended, and parsed, that magic, teaching us to see it for ourselves and holding its practitioners to the highest standards. Her essays are supple, richly textured (and often movingly autobiographical) prose; her critical heart is equally generous and demanding; her mind is quirky, opinionated, candid, and honeycombed with the love and lore of the art she chose to showcase. Seemingly without trying (but of course that was part of her magic) she became my generation’s most eloquent and necessary exponent of American poetry."
—Albert Goldbarth

"As assembled here these writings become a brilliant tour of the last twenty-five years of American poetry, not systematic, orderly, or complete, but strikingly capacious and wide ranging. Kitchen is an extraordinary guide to these writers and texts, both the famous and the less familiar. What Persists is both a significant contribution to American poetry criticism and a lasting tribute to one of our best recent critics."
—Jeff Gundy, author of Somewhere Near Defiance

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What Persists contains eighteen of the nearly fifty essays on poetry that Judith Kitchen published in The Georgia Review over a twenty-five-year span. Coming at the genre from every possible angle, this celebrated critic discusses work by older and younger poets, most American but some foreign, and many of whom were not yet part of the contemporary canon. Her essays reveal a cultural history from the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, through 9/11 and the Iraq War, and move into today’s political climate. They chronicle personal interests while they also make note of what was happening in contemporary poetry by revealing overall changes of taste, both in content and in the use of craft. Over time, they fashion a comprehensive overview of the contemporary literary scene.

At its best, What Persists shows what a wide range of poetry is being written—by women, men, poets who celebrate their ethnicity, poets who show a fierce individualism, poets whose careers have soared, promising poets whose work has all but disappeared.

Georgia Review Books

Georgia Review Books

Page count: 376 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $34.95

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Judith Kitchen was the author of many books, including Perennials, Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford, The House on Eccles Street, Only the Dance, and The Circus Train. She also edited or coedited four collections of nonfiction: In Short, In Brief, Short Takes, and The Poets Guide to the Birds. Her awards include two Pushcart Prizes for her essays, the Lillian Fairchild Award for her novel, the Anhinga Prize for poetry, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She died in 2014.