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Richard Howard on Stephen Yenser's The Fire in All Things

Written by

Richard Howard
Contributor Page

Year

2004

Stephen Yenser was the winner of the 1992 Walt Whitman Award for his first collection of poems, The Fire in All Things (Louisiana State University Press, 1993). The judge for the award was Richard Howard, who wrote the following citation.


It is the energy of form consciously invoked--reversal, recurrence, closure--which is the fire in all Mr. Yenser's things. No poem in his significantly plotted book can escape the consumption (the consummation) of second thoughts, a discipline of patterning undergone, rarely paraded. Hence ever so many reservations wittily lodged about life's likelihoods, for most of the poems call into question the expected success of bodies, and weathers, travels and passions. Exceptional is the grandest making, "Vertumnal," a luminous tribute to another life, character explored as searchingly as in Robinson or Frost, though its surfaces and seams are Yenser's own, igneous with a "loved philology." The poet is learned as well as knowing, arrant as well as scrupulous, and for all the topiary and all the charm, you can read straight through this book with the gaining discovery that it is one text, a single utterance of realization--the poem's, the poet's, yours.