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Sven Birkerts Essays About Life

Other Walk is a series of autobiographical pieces by the master of reflection and slow time

Throughout his life, Sven Birkerts, one of the country's foremost literary critics, has carved out time for himself--to walk, to swim, to read, to contemplate. Now in his late fifties, he has clocked up many thousands of hours of reflection. It shows in his prose, which proceeds at aOther Walk is a series of autobiographical pieces by the master of reflection and slow time

Throughout his life, Sven Birkerts, one of the country's foremost literary critics, has carved out time for himself--to walk, to swim, to read, to contemplate. Now in his late fifties, he has clocked up many thousands of hours of reflection. It shows in his prose, which proceeds at a refreshingly deliberative pace as it draws the reader into his patterns and rhythms.

In this deeply appealing and engaging collection of essays, Birkerts looks back through his own life, as well as at the generations before him, and ahead at the lives of his children. We read how the writer witnesses his son's frightening sailing accident, how he feels when he encounters his own prose from many years ago, how finding a cigarette lighter or a lost ring releases a cascade of memories. The objects he sees around him--old friends, remembered places--are excavated, their layers exposed.

But most winning of all is the emerging character of Birkerts himself. We come to have great respect for this competitive but deeply loyal friend, the caring father who respects his children's independence even as he tries to connect with them, the traveler, the onetime bookseller, the writer at all stages of his writing life, and throughout it all, the attentive, passionate reader....more

Paperback, 192 pages

Published September 13th 2011 by Graywolf Press

If poetry is organically linked to the speech idiom of its timeand if popular idiom is molded by television and other mass mediathen how can the poet fathom the age without sounding arch, mannered or deliberately bland? That maddening question is posed here by Birkerts ( An Artificial Wilderness ), and answers provided by poets as diverse as Gary Snyder, Adrienne Rich and Robert Lowell resonate in these impassioned essays and reviews. Alert to the genuine, wary of pose and pretension, Birkerts guides us through the shoals and depths of contemporary verse as he spotlights a score of less well-known poets, among them Alice Fulton, Frank Bidart, Jorie Graham, Peter Klappert, Melissa Green. His close readings of Keats and Marianne Moore remind us why we still turn to their poetry. Turning to poets in translation, he looks at Rilke's secular cosmology, Tomas Transtromer's vision of life as a difficult mystery, Octavio Paz's haunting music born of his orientalism. This rich gathering of essays confirms Birkerts's stature as one of the most perceptive critics of our time.
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