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William Logan

Deception Island

Deception Island


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William Logan’s poetry has been called elegant, difficult, cranky, formidable, dazzling, intoxicating, and ominous. For almost forty years, he has published poems that do not fit comfortably with the work of most of his contemporaries, and perhaps do not want to fit at all. The poems in Deception Island, a selection from his first five books, find their souls in the soullessness of modern life — if he looks upon the present with a withering eye, he sees the roots of later darkness in the early sins of culture. He might be called a moral poet, if he were not so suspicious of the certainties of morality. Nonetheless, he takes a resistant pleasure in the Byzantine contrivance of Venice, in the empty vision of the American west, and in the romantic longing of British landscape. He is equally at home in the privileges of free verse and in the older metrical line, sometimes roughened into sensibility, and rarely heard now with such command or control. Logan has an impeccable ear, a darkening view, and a belief that the poet’s job is to work in language, to do things with words, without attempting to persuade or forgive. In his poems, the echoes of Lowell, Auden, and other modern masters can sometimes be heard; but he has fused his influences into a poetic line that is personal in the private wrestling with language that the poet must accept as his task.

Reviews of this Book

‘Sad-faced Men (1982): Logan writes like an angel — an elegant, literary angel.’ —Donald Hall

‘‘The most hated man in American poetry,’ a title one could be proud of in this time of fawning and favor-trading.’ —Robert McDowell

‘The unloveliness of some of the feelings to which Logan gives vent is refreshing, a counter to the melancholy transcendentalism of many of his contemporaries. He takes America personally. . . . Logan’s are never going to be the Nation’s Favourite Poems, but their presence reminds us of what poetry can include.’ —Sean O’Brien

‘Macbeth in Venice (2003): A construct of elegant thematic and formal irony…Logan’s strengths are those of a learned poet – a confident grasp of formal and thematic resource, an archivist’s love of the past and an impassioned concern for tradition.’ —J. T. Barbarese

‘The Whispering Gallery (2005): In a very different vein, that scrupulous and at times ironic austerity distinguishes William Logan's new collection of poems, The Whispering Gallery. Its feelings are under pressure of exactitude and clarity. The flashes of humour are all the more telling.’ —George Steiner

‘William Logan’s work has frequently elicited comparison with W. H. Auden and Robert Lowell, and for good reason.’ —James Matthew Wilson

‘Strange Flesh (2008): A hard-boiled formalist with a redoubtable aptitude for tersely fastidious diction and sinewy prosody whipped into fighting trim. . . . He can hold his own with just about anyone in vivisecting the vanity of human wishes with savage aplomb.’ —David Barber

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