John Irwin, who led The Hopkins Review from its rebirth in 2008, will retire from teaching at Johns Hopkins University this spring. David Yezzi took over the reins of the journal in 2015. A well-known poet, actor and editor, Yezzi joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2013. Yezzi joined us to talk about his new position and the special issue devoted to Irwin’s impact on the field.
Category Archives: Poetry
Emily Dickinson Journal publishes its 25th volume in 2016 under the guidance of a new editor. James R. Guthrie, Professor of English Language and Literatures at Wright State University, now helms the journal. He joined us for a Q&A about his new role and the journal’s anniversary.
How did you come to take the editor position at the journal?
I was invited to take the position by Cristanne Miller, the EDJ‘s previous editor.
What is one surprising thing you have found in the transition?
Learning to use ScholarOne. (Ed: An online system for manuscript submission and review) I was quite intimidated by ScolarOne when I took over the editorship. But now, with two issues under my belt, I’m much more comfortable with that program. ScholarOne is still not as user-friendly as I would prefer, but I’ve come to appreciate what it can do for me, as an editor.
Emily Dickinson Journal will publish its 25th volume in 2016. What does that milestone mean for you?
Twenty-five years is indeed a milestone for the EDJ. Personally, those 25 years coincide roughly with my own scholarly interest in Dickinson. It has been a real pleasure to watch Dickinson move from the fringe of recognized American writers to canonical status. My wife jokes now that she can rarely open an issue of the Sunday New York Times or the New Yorker without coming across a reference to Emily Dickinson. She has definitely entered the mainstream of American culture and literary history.
What kind of plans to you have in the short term for the journal?
Now that I’m more comfortable with the position of editor, I look forward to using the EDJ to encourage growth in particular areas of Dickinson scholarship. For example, I’m interested in encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to her poetry. I also like cultural materialist / new historical approaches. Also, there’s a good deal of interest among Dickinson scholars these days in looking more closely at literary kinships between Dickinson and other 19th-century American writers such as Melville and Thoreau. Then too, Dickinson scholarship has become increasingly international in scope. Foreign scholars have much to offer about the reception of Dickinson’s work in their countries, translations of the poems, and similarities between her work and that of local celebrated authors.
What kind of advice would you give to scholars looking to publish in the journal?
I would certainly advise scholars considering submitting work to the EDJ to go ahead and do so — we welcome any sort of scholarship concerning Dickinson. And Dickinson is something of a hot property these days in scholarship and the media — so young scholars may boost their own careers by focusing more intently upon Dickinson’s work. The network of Dickinson scholars is (drawing upon my own experience) welcoming, receptive to new ideas, and friendly. So, take a chance on Dickinson — I think all of us practicing Dickinson scholars are happy that we did.
The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars will host a reading by two long-time friends and JHU Press authors, John Irwin and Wyatt Prunty, on Thursday, February 25, at 6:30 p.m. The reading, reception, and book signing take place in Gilman Hall, Room 50, on JHU’s Homewood campus. The event is free and open to the public; find more information on the Writing Seminars website.
John Irwin has been an extraordinary friend and partner to JHU Press over many decades, publishing six scholarly books with us under his own name; three volumes of poetry under his pen name, John Bricuth; editing some 97 volumes in the distinguished series, Johns Hopkins: Poetry & Fiction, on behalf of the Press and the Writing Seminars; relaunching the literary journal, The Hopkins Review, in 2008; and serving as the intrepid cheer-leader, fundraiser, and inspiration for all these projects. We extend boundless thanks and good wishes to John, who retired last year as Decker Professor of the Humanities at JHU. He will be reading from and signing copies of his (John Bricuth’s) latest volume of poetry, Pure Products of America. Inc.
Wyatt Prunty is a professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South and the founding director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is the author of nine collections of poems (eight published with JHUP), including Unarmed and DANGEROUS and The Lover’s Guide to Trapping. He will be reading from and signing copies his latest collection from JHUP, Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise.
This post re-publishes portions of a story by Maureen McGavin that appeared online at the Emory News Center. Read the full story here.
The second volume of a JHUP’s monumental digital work, The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot: The Critical Edition, coedited by Emory University’s Ron Schuchard and involving the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), has won the Modernist Studies Association’s inaugural prize for a distinguished edition.
The prize is awarded to an edition, anthology, or essay collection, published in the previous year, which made the most significant contribution to modernist studies.
“I’m honored to receive and share this prize with my coeditor, professor Anthony Cuda (Emory Ph.D. 2004) at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, the Emory digital team, and the staff members of the Johns Hopkins University Press and Project Muse,” says Schuchard, Goodrich C. White Professor of English Emeritus at Emory.
The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot is an eight-volume digital collection of Eliot’s published and unpublished works. The third volume was published in September, with the fourth slated to be released in December.
When complete, the fully searchable, integrative edition will include all of Eliot’s collected essays, reviews, lectures, commentaries, and letters to editors, including more than 700 uncollected and 150 unpublished pieces from 1905 to 1965. The editions are available from JHU Press on Project Muse.
“While the entire edition, projected to eight volumes, constitutes a major achievement and an indispensable archive,” the judges wrote, “Volume II is certain to be the one most used by scholars, most central to ongoing studies and re-evaluations of Eliot and the history of modernist criticism. Clear and easily grasped editorial principles and superb content notes speak to the dedication, diligence, and sound sense of the editorial team.”
Interview by Yasmine Kaminsky
You mentioned in an interview with the Tennessee Literary Project that although your parents raised you in a cultured household, you initially did not believe you would become a writer. How, then, did your path to poetry form?
I was the son and grandson of professors, so growing up I had plenty of books around and knew how many poets there were in the tradition. Imagining someday being a part of that body struck me as a long shot. I would have said, age 16 to 18 or so, that it was unrealistic from the standpoint of ever making a living let alone making a difference in the lineup of some library’s bookshelves. At the same time I had been making up melodies and songs for years. When I turned twelve I was given a guitar. It wasn’t a very good guitar, but that was all it took for me. This was the 1960s and the coffee house/folk music boom was underway. I sang in a group. The other two members of the group were in college, and they were good. In the summers they had gigs at the Brickskeller and Cellar Door in Washington, and one year they were offered a stint at the Bitter End in NYC, but their parents made them return to the University in Athens, Georgia to finish their degrees. I was still in high school, but we performed some of the songs I wrote. Writing a song and performing it with others was a great way to learn a number of things that were applicable to poems.
I learned that a song can stand on the ground of immediate conviction. When the words and the melody fit really well something beyond one’s individual will takes over. Writing songs is a time-worn path to lyric poetry. Along that way one discovers how deeply a poem can burrow. A song’s music keeps moving so the words must be readily understandable, whereas a poem enjoys more license. When I came to college I brought along a stack of poems and naively walked into the office of the editor of The Sewanee Review. Andrew Lytle read them and gave them to Allen Tate who pronounced a few “publishable.” Then they published one, then some others. There were no superlatives uttered, just something about I could do this if I was willing to work hard enough long enough. With that I was convicted.
In another interview with Chapter 16 a few years ago, you stated your “long-held belief that the first concern for poetry at any time is figurative thought that leads to a dramatic core of meaning.” Could you elaborate on your position and how it relates to your new poetry collection?
I have stated that figurative thought is the “first concern for poetry.” That is because a poem is a mode of thought before it is a form of expression. Poetry uncovers parts of reality we would miss without it. The reason, years ago, I used the term “dramatic core of meaning” had to do with mediating between formalist and free verse arguments. I thought then and still think a poem’s argument and its rhythm are its dominant elements. Listen to a young couple having an intense conversation in an airport, and you will hear argument and the alternation between stressed and unstressed syllables. That experience ought to be enough for anyone to unravel the rest as far as form is concerned. Poetic figure houses a poem’s argument, and the rhythms of the English language reinforce the emotional import of that argument.
I was fortunate to stumble upon a video of your poetry reading last fall at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in which you read some poems from Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise. One aspect of the reading that strikes me is the humor and tragedy apparent in many of your works (e.g., “Bad Dog” and “Another Christmas Tie”). How do you balance these two elements in your writing?
Humor jars expectation and causes rebalancing. It qualifies and redeems. If you damp emotion, as humor can do, a poem’s durability can increase. My purpose with humor is to disarm the reader and to objectify the subject so the poem has a greater half-life. I do not intend something that is just performative; a poem has a kind of ontology to it. It is a consciousness for as long as it lasts. Finding ways to keep such a mind from exhausting itself with its own obsessions is art. It is a way to dwell in a subject. Art is experience without the cost of experience, and it is understanding fused with value. Along with these there is the ideal of seeing something from many sides and judging along multiple lines. Tragedy teaches this. Most lives are lived among tragedies small and frequent. But Shakespeare to Irish wake, there is a place for humor too. We think both ways at once.
Could you explain to us how self-revision as well as peer-review with others (such as your editor John Irwin) have helped shape the collection?
Of your question about self-revision the main thing to say is that I was more conscious of that process when I was younger. At that time I created an ideal audience for myself consisting of poets whose work I admired. I wrote with the hope my poem would be meaningful in the context of such an audience. I tried to test that poem with the perspectives of whatever my current short list of greats happened to be. I judged poems in light of what I imagined the aesthetic thinking of these poets would be if they were living in the present. That ideal audience changed as my interests changed, and I suppose now I have absorbed certain principles to the point that I feel as though I work alone, though no one does entirely.
In the case of “Nod,” the long poem in Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise, everything derives from the characters in the poem. Revision occurred within the terms of character. And to return briefly to the subjects of humor and tragedy, it is important to add that the characters in “Nod” are not allegorical; they are represented by the poem as physically present. Their humor and their tragedies are real. Were they not real, some of what they say and do would have a different meaning. Humor is a test for what is real. A recent review of “Nod” found it to be an allegory. However the speaker, the main character who narrates the poem, while never named is in fact a living being. He is not Fulton, as one reader supposed. There is no reality to Fulton other than the name used for expression. Fulton, we are told, is like Jimmy Durante’s Mrs. Calabash, an ideal defined by absence. The date of the poem’s events really is July 3, and the location really is a mall outside Atlanta, Georgia where the summer heat rising from the asphalt is hellish.
Floyd Byrom Thatch is a wounded vanity. He is a Georgia cracker on the order of a poor man’s Mephistopheles. And as someone obsessed with security he also has something of Lord Byron’s self-imposed exile. But Floyd is a real person, as all the others are. In the poem’s first part Floyd says to the speaker, “Who’s to remember . . . Who’s to remember a nickel or a dime / Or ever the time you saw your little dog get hit?” The poem’s narrator asks, “And how you think you know my dog was hit.” Floyd answers, “I’m saying, you were six; the dog was four, / Maybe five. Just saying that, nothing more.” That is, these things really did happen, and Floyd’s suppositions trouble the narrator because he has intuited something painful from the narrator’s past. The evil of Floyd’s wounded pride may be metaphysical (and universal on the order of allegory), but Floyd’s body and his history are matters of this world. The events of his life are no more allegorical than those of other lives that participate in the repeated patterns of our nature. In fact the events described are more disturbing than allegory would be. The narrator is hostile to Floyd’s speculation about the dog’s death because that event was real and the pain felt was real as well.
In revising “Nod” I had to come to terms with the fact that Floyd’s suffering is particular even as his judgment is general. Floyd’s thinking tends to generate the very things about which he is so apprehensive. He believes in negative terms. He is in security as a result of his doubt. And June and the two children are fractional presences due to Floyd’s drawn vision. We get another take on the limits of Floyd’s circular darkness when June starts putting him in his place. There he is comic enough that the humor and the tragedy of the poem constitute two sides of the same object, human finitude. I have gone into all this as it relates to “Nod,” but the humor, tragedy, and revision you ask about in my poetry generally stem from situations that are either overtly dramatic or implicitly so. Short poems assume what longer poems unpack from their dramatic situations, but the basis for each is similar to all others. Character and motive, elaborated or not, are the first governing principles in the poems I write. They determine humor, tragedy, and all manner of revision.
Like book manuscripts, book titles are often subject to change before publication. Was naming Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise easy or difficult? How did the naming come about?
My editor, mostly John Irwin of the Johns Hopkins University Press, has frequently been funny and helpful during the process of choosing the title for a new book. When The Run of the House was in press John kept asking me for different titles. Our son, Ian, was still very small but had a booming voice on the order of John Irving’s Owen Meany. There was this big voice and very little guy who made John Irwin laugh. At one point John asked what I thought Ian would say the title for the book ought to be. I said I don’t know, Ian’s not here to ask. John said, “Well what do you imagine Ian would call the book?” I said, “Run of the House, since that’s what he has.” John said, “I like that.” The next time I called, with another title, John said, “Marketing likes it, too.” The answer to your question is that a title should be both telling and cryptic. By a title the reader is introduced to a bit of a mystery. And that is as it should be since the book lives ultimately in the imagination of the reader. The second part of the answer is that we write for others, so title-to-last-line is considered finally in terms of what will work for the reader. The title is the first step in this.
Wyatt Prunty is a professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South and the founding director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is the author of nine collections of poems, including The Lover’s Guide to Trapping, and two critical works. His latest collection of poems from JHU Press, Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise, was published in 2015.
Yasmine Kaminsky, a student at Johns Hopkins University, studies English and interns in JHU Press’s marketing department.
Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of Couldn’t Prove, Had to Promise.
At the 2015 Modern Language Association Convention, the journal SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 won the Voyager Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ). The award recognizes an outstanding journal in any discipline covering the time period between 1500 and 1800.
SEL Editor Logan Browning took some time recently to participate in a Q&A about the award.
JHUP: Congratulations on the Voyager Award. What does it mean for your peers to recognize SEL like this?
Logan Browning: That the award comes from fellow editors of learned journals makes it especially significant. Each judge for the CELJ knows intimately how much work goes into producing a professional, respected scholarly or learned journal year after year: the difficult balancing act necessary between diligently honoring the standards of your predecessors—in our case the founders and developers of the journal here at Rice University—and remaining constantly alert for ways to improve and innovate and avoid stagnation. It’s tough in ways that only fellow editors understand fully.
I’ve always joked with my family and many friends that they shouldn’t worry, that I won’t be sending them gift subscriptions to SEL as birthday or holiday presents because I realize that our audience for each issue is somewhat specialized. But I go on to say that, just as you would want your medical doctors to have read certain journals covering their specialties, we hope that scholars working in the fields we cover consider SEL essential reading. Judging our success in that regard is also something that only peers, those working toward the same goal, can accomplish effectively.
JHUP: With issues covering four distinct time periods, how satisfying is it to win an award covering largely the same time period?
LB: One of the persistent challenges for SEL is maintaining the same degree of excellence in each of our four issues: making sure that one issue doesn’t gather all the attention and respect while another struggles. We want the specialists most focused on each of our issues to accord us the same high level of distinction. I think this award certifies that we’re doing a pretty good job of meeting that challenge.
JHUP: How has the addition of editors for specific time periods helped the journal in recent years?
LB: Adding Joseph Campana as our Editor for 1500-1659 to work on our Winter and Spring issues and Alexander Regier as our Editor for 1660-1900 to work on our Summer and Autumn issues has been wonderfully helpful in a great many ways. They gives us in-house expertise across all four of our issue concentrations, the insight of two highly respected scholars whose visibility in their fields has helped to bring in a large number of new contributors and advisors from all levels of the profession. And each has generated numerous ideas for new exciting projects. Two of those ideas are already bearing fruit: Joe’s idea that more attention should be paid to allegory’s place in early modern drama has led to the publication of a cluster of essays in our Spring 2015 issue under the title “Staging Allegory,” and Alexander’s idea to highlight essays emerging from a year-long seminar at Rice on “Exchanges and Temporalities” is responsible for our decision to publish two special issues, Summer and Autumn 2016, devoted to that topic. We are thinking these special issues will help us learn more about possible ways to recalibrate our standard division of issue focus at SEL, but stay tuned for more on that subject.
I am immensely proud of having had the idea of adding two in-house editors, especially as it has thus far worked out so well for the journal to have Joe and Alexander on board. But I do have to acknowledge that I first thought of the possibility when I was reading correspondence in the SEL archives to write a short history of SEL for our 50th anniversary celebrations in 2010 and 2011. I discovered then that Carroll Camden, the founding editor of SEL, had originally hoped to have an editor in place for each issue, but the idea never quite panned out. But it showed me, that in this and so many other ways, his first outlines for the journal in the late 1950s were inspired. So much of what we do today at SEL has been in place from the very beginning.
JHUP: This is the second CELJ honor in recent years with Bob Patten winning the Distinguished Editor honor in 2013. How gratifying is it to receive these kinds of recognition?
LB: Both have been gratifying to receive, but in different ways. Bob’s award acknowledged, among other achievements, the fact that no one has had more influence on the continued success of SEL and its comparative security in the very insecure world of scholarly publishing than he. Despite the respect I have for Carroll Camden as founder, as well as for others such as Ed Doughtie, also journal editor at a key time, I would argue without any doubt that Bob’s work with SEL for more than thirty of his forty years at Rice makes him the most significant figure in our history. Almost every day, I think of some way that Bob’s prescience and persistence make my working life easier. Without him, SEL almost certainly wouldn’t exist today. He found fiscal support in unlikely places, organized our wonderful Diana Hobby Fellows editorial program for Rice graduate students in English, set up arrangements with Johns Hopkins University Press and Project MUSE that continue to pay off for us today, secured the digital archiving of our issues from the first volume on with JSTOR, and maintained an absolutely stellar editorial board of advisors from around the English-speaking world. He also left a superb example of selfless scholarship and professionalism.
JHUP: What kind of effect do awards have on the people who put in the extra time required to put out an outstanding journal?
LB: Immeasurable. And I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here. I think virtually everyone who works in scholarly publishing knows that you aren’t going to become a celebrity in this world. Even of those who may publish a blockbuster book, or lead discussions on highly topical issues, only a very small number will ever be “trending” or merit attention outside a small coterie of professionals with similar interests. So when a journal like ours receives some recognition, e.g., wins a Voyager award, it feels and, I think, is immensely significant. Consequently, it’s extremely important to point out that such a rare honor truly is a collaborative effort; that lots of dedicated persons have contributed to the qualities that earned the award. It’s not just the publishers and executive editors, the editors, and the editorial board, but (to give only a partial list) the associate editors and business managers of the last twenty-five years such as Becky Byron (currently), Kay McStay, K Krueger McDonald, and Sally Hubbard; the Hobby Editorial Fellows; the scholarly essay contributors; our omnibus review authors; the specialist manuscript evaluators; our readers, especially those who remain loyal subscribers; the superb staff members at JHUP; and of course our benefactors, particularly the Hobby Family Foundation and the School of Humanities at Rice. It’s been a great honor to accept the Voyager Award on behalf of everyone who has helped to make SEL the distinguished journal that it is.
We’re excited about the books we’ll be publishing this fall—and pleased to share this series of “Fall Books Preview” blog posts! Be sure to check out the online edition of JHUP’s entire Fall 2015 catalog, and remember that promo code “HDPD” gets you a 30% discount on pre-pub orders. Here are some of our forthcoming books in literature and classics:
Pure Products of America, Inc.
A Narrative Poem
This propulsive narrative poem tells the extended story of the popular born-again televangelist Ray Bob Elray—better known to all his fans as Big Bubba—his twin sons, Nick and Jesse, and his niece and adopted daughter, Donna.
“The outrageous John Bricuth has surpassed himself in this sublimely mad narrative poem about our ongoing America. There is no one quite like Bricuth. He tries to play all the notes at once and frequently succeeds. Wickedness, supernal wit, eloquence always just off the beat, and a fierce verve animate this unsettling leap into our deepening abyss. To read this poem is to imbibe a tonic for these darkening times.”—Harold Bloom
“In his hugely enjoyable new verse novel, John Bricuth recounts the rise and fall of Big Bubba, preacher, faith healer, and entrepreneur, ‘the Donald Trump of holy rollers,’ whose long-kept secret has torn his family apart. It’s a captivating story, a real page-turner, poignant yet often hilarious, told in high-energy language by a master poet.”—X. J. Kennedy
Available in November
Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language
Mark L. Louden
In this probing study, Mark L. Louden, himself a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch, provides readers with a close look at the place of the language in the life and culture of two major subgroups of speakers: the “Fancy Dutch,” whose ancestors were affiliated mainly with Lutheran and German Reformed churches, and conservative Anabaptist sectarians known as the “Plain people”—the Old Order Amish and Mennonites.
“Mark L. Louden is the foremost scholar of Pennsylvania Dutch. A significant contribution to linguistic, sociolinguistic, historical, and anthropological scholarship, his book is extensively researched, accessible, and filled with a wealth of language examples that will appeal to a wide audience.”—Karen Johnson-Weiner, SUNY Potsdam, coauthor of The Amish
Available in January 2106
Narrating 9/11: Fantasies of State, Security, and Terrorism
edited by John N. Duvall and Robert P. Marzec
Narrating 9/11 challenges the notion that Americans have overcome the national trauma of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The volume responds to issues of war, surveillance, and the expanding security state, including the Bush Administration’s policies on preemptive war, extraordinary rendition, torture abroad, and the suspension of privacy rights and civil liberties at home.
Touching on some of the mainstays of 9/11 fiction, including Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and John Updike’s Terrorist, the book expands this particular canon by considering the work of such writers as Jess Walter, William Gibson, Lauren Groff, Ken Kalfus, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, John le Carré, Laila Halaby, Michael Chabon, and Jarett Kobek. Narrating 9/11 pushes beyond a critical focus on domestic realism, offering chapters that examine speculative and genre fiction, postmodernism, climate change, and the evolving security state, as well as the television series Lost and the film Paradise Now.
Available in September
Women and War in Antiquity
edited by Jacqueline Fabre-Serris and Alison Keith
The martial virtues—courage, loyalty, cunning, and strength—were central to male identity in the ancient world, and antique literature is replete with depictions of men cultivating and exercising these virtues on the battlefield. In Women and War in Antiquity, sixteen scholars reexamine classical sources to uncover the complex but hitherto unexplored relationship between women and war in ancient Greece and Rome. They reveal that women played a much more active role in battle than previously assumed, embodying martial virtues in both real and mythological combat.
“A fascinating, intellectually stimulating, and useful volume, Women and War in Antiquity sheds important new light on a complex issue while offering penetrating interpretations at the intersection of history and literature. This excellent book should interest scholars far beyond those specializing in Greco-Roman culture.”—Kurt Raaflaub, Brown University, coeditor of Raymond Westbrook’s Ex Oriente Lex: Near Eastern Influences on Ancient Greek and Roman Law
Available in November
British Romanticism and the Critique of Political Reason
What role should reason play in the creation of a free and just society? Can we claim to know anything in a field as complex as politics? And how can the cause of political rationalism be advanced when it is seen as having blood on its hands? These are the questions that occupied a group of British poets, philosophers, and polemicists in the years following the French Revolution. Timothy Michael argues that much literature of the period is a trial, or a critique, of reason in its political capacities and a test of the kinds of knowledge available to it. This book bridges for the first time two traditional pillars of Romantic studies: the period’s politics and its theories of the mind and knowledge. Combining literary and intellectual history, it provides an account of British Romanticism in which high rhetoric, political prose, poetry, and poetics converge in a discourse of enlightenment and emancipation.
“Ambitious, well executed, and timely, this book provides valuable insight into some of the most abiding questions of Romantic studies.”—Charles W. Mahoney, University of Connecticut, editor of A Companion to Romantic Poetry
Available in December