The balance, appreciation, and clear-eyed sympathy of Hayden Carruth’s 1975 essay on Robert Frost stands as a model for literary critics. His later essays on the blues, Richard Hugo, and Allen Ginsberg are similarly engaged, fair-minded, and human. Not every first-rate poet can write well about poetry, but Carruth was that rare writer who was brilliant both at making poems and discussing them. Adrienne Rich wrote that these essays “keep faith with poetry,” by which she meant that they refuse to simplify or objectify. There is much to be learned from Carruth’s prose as well as his poetry.
“This is impassioned poetry criticism of the best sort. So good, in fact, that even those without a taste for poetry (or for criticism, for that matter) will find themselves entertained and instructed.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[Carruth] is undogmatic and often courageous… These reviews, published over thirty years, remind us that his judgment is not soft and his ear does not err. He respects tradition and his readers… He makes us love what he loves, with eyes wide open.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Carruth approaches his subject with a fresh and unbiased objectivity… His considerable experience allows him to be sympathetic yet fair in his opinions.” —Library Journal
“This selection of essays is both judicious and generous… Collectively they become a chronicle of American literary thought during the past fifty years… [It’s] a collection sufficiently varied to provide any reader interested in any kind of writing with ample opportunities for engagement and enlightenment.” —Brian Henry, Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A selection of some of the most compelling essays written over five decades.” —Magill Book Reviews
“There is more bedrock wisdom in Hayden Carruth’s Selected Essays & Reviews than I have read in a good long time… penetrating, chance-taking wisdom that transforms criticism into eloquence… The combined forces of his intellect and diction [are] breathtaking… This collection is the distillation of language from one of our finest poets writing today.” —Western American Literature