Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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A moving collection of essays on aging and happiness

Drawing on more than six decades' worth of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, Willard Spiegelman reflects with candid humor and sophistication on growing old. Senior Moments is a series of discrete essays that, when taken together, constitute the life of a man who, despite Western cultural notions of aging as something to be denied, overcome, and resisted, has continued to relish the simplest of pleasures: reading, looking at art, talking, and indulging in occasional fits of nostalgia while also welcoming what inevitably lies ahead.

Spiegelman's expertly crafted book considers, with wisdom and elegance, how to be alert to the joys that brim from unexpected places even as death draws near. Senior Moments is a foray into the felicity and follies that age brings; a consideration of how and what one reads or rereads in late adulthood; the eagerness for, and disappointment in, long-awaited reunions, at which the past comes alive in the present. A clear-eyed book of memories, written in eight searching and courageously honest essays, Senior Moments is guaranteed to stimulate, stir, and restore.

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About the author

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. From 1984 until 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He has written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than a quarter century he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure & Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Sep 13, 2016
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780374712990
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Collections / Essays
Self-Help / Aging
Social Science / Gerontology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Writing with the vigor and elan that readers have come to expect from his many astute reviews and essays, Willard Spiegelman maintains that contemporary American poets have returned to the poetic aims of an earlier era: to edify, as well as to delight, and thus to serve the "didactic muse." What Spiegelman says about individual poets--such as Nemerov, Hecht, Ginsberg, Pinsky, Ammons, Rich, and Merrill, among others--is wonderfully insightful. Furthermore, his outlook on their work--the way he takes quite literally the teacherly elements of their poems--challenges long-standing conceptions both about contemporary writing and about the poetry of the Eliot-Pound-Stevens-Williams generation. Beginning the book with a meditation on W. H. Auden's legacy to American poets, Spiegelman ends with a discussion of the multiple scenes of learning in Merrill's The Changing Light at Sandover, which he identifies as not only the major epic poem of the second half of the twentieth century but also as the period's most important georgic: a textbook full of scientific, mythic, artistic, and human instruction. The Didactic Muse reminds us that poets have traditionally acknowledged their function as teachers, from Horace's advice that poetry should please and instruct to Robert Frost's aphorism that a poem "begins in delight and ends in wisdom." Whereas many of the critical remarks of the most important Romantic and modern poets suggest their desperate attempts to separate poetry from instruction, Spiegelman demonstrates that their practices often contradicted their theories. And he shows that our best contemporary poets are now embracing the older, classical paradigms.

Originally published in 1989.

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