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Being Numerous


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Controversial and important, Being Numerous doesn't aim to harness the twin rivers of modern poetry in order to clean out the stables. It doesn't celebrate the hybrid. Instead, it resurveys the poetic landscape and offers an alternative way for considering both it and our involvement in it. In Izenberg's plat, poetry might well be considered 'something that we are.' And despite that his arguments are philosophically rich, he writes with a lucidity so attentive, his style can seem at times a kind of tenderness. This is a significant, a revisionary book. It might also be a guide. Its claims on our attention will be more than momental. -- Forrest Gander, Brown University Being Numerous provides a general theory of poetry's claim to universalism through lyric transactions between a writer and a reader that are both enabled and tortured by the attitude Izenberg calls poetic form. As a result, he pays very close attention to the reader's experience of feeling connected to the scene of being one of many through the poem. I love reading this manifestic and meticulous writing, and it has a lot to offer scholars of affect, emotion, and intimacy. -- Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago In this major book, Oren Izenberg introduces a crucial and generative new distinction that reorganizes twentieth-century poetry. Izenberg is simply the best young critic of modernist poetry around--for his capacious scholarship, his elegant prose, his imaginative scope, his close and intelligent reading, and especially his ability to show how some quite diverse poetic projects share a basic purpose. -- Charles Altieri, University of California, Berkeley

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii INTRODUCTION: Poems, Poetry, Personhood 1 CHAPTER ONE: White Thin Bone: Yeatsian Personhood 40 CHAPTER TWO: Oppen's Silence, Crusoe's Silence, and the Silence of Other Minds 78 CHAPTER THREE: The Justice of My Feelings for Frank O'Hara 107 CHAPTER FOUR: Language Poetry and Collective Life 138 CHAPTER FIVE: We Are Reading 164 Notes 189 Index 225

About the Author

Oren Izenberg is a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois, Chicago.


"A blazingly astute assessment of postmodern poetics, Oren Izenberg's Being Numerous examines the role contemporary poetry plays in representing being and what constitutes value of being."--Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Brooklyn Rail "[Izenberg] makes an intriguing case for focusing on the ontological dimension of poetic practice in general; readers might move beyond seeing the poem as a self-contained artifact and instead see it as a function of the poet's desire to define the person..."--Choice "Izenberg's conclusive meditation on known and unknown readers, then, seems to open and invite the readings that this book will generate, as it powerfully, scrupulously recalls us to the responsibilities inherent in any literary response."--Siobhan Phillips, Contemporary Literature

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