When free verse and its many movements seemed to dominate poetry, other writers worked steadfastly, insistently, and majestically in traditional forms of rhyme and meter.
Such poets as Anthony Hecht, Donald Justice, Derek Walcott, and Richard Wilbur used sonnets, villanelles, blank verse, and many other forms to create dazzling, lasting work. Their writing posed a counterpoint to free verse, sustained a tradition in English language verse, and eventually inspired the movement called New Formalism.
"Fourteen on Form: Conversations with Poets" collects interviews with some of the most influential poets of the last fifty years. William Baer, editor of "The Formalist" asks incisive questions that allow writers to discuss in detail a wide range of topics related to their work, methods of composition, and the contemporary poetry scene.
Maxine Kumin reflects on being a woman poet during a period in which women were not encouraged to submit to journals. With clarity and passion, Walcott remembers the impetus of his famous "Eulogy to W. H. Auden." British poet Wendy Cope talks about the differences between how her barbed poems are received in England and abroad. The conversations return continually to the serious matter of poetic craft, especially the potential power of form in poetry.
These well-paced conversations showcase poets discussing their creative lives with insight and candor. The sum total of their forthright opinions in "Fourteen on Form" not only elucidates the current situation of the art form but also serves as a primer for understanding the fundamental craft of poetics.
William Baer is a professor of English at the University of Evansville and the editor of "The Formalist." He edited "Elia Kazan: Interviews and Conversations" with Derek Walcott (both published by University Press of Mississippi).
WILLIAM BAER has taught film and screenwriting at the University of Evansville for the past fifteen years. He is currently the film critic at Crisis, and for years his work has appeared regularly in Creative Screenwriting. A recent Guggenheim recipient (2007), he has also received a Fulbright (Portugal) and an N.E.A. Creative Writing Grant in fiction. His twelve books include Elia Kazan: Interviews; Luis de Camoes: Selected Sonnets; and The Unfortunates, for which he received the T.S. Eliot Poetry award.
Some of the highlights from these interviews include: Betty Comden and Adolph Green's explaining how a nightclub skit became the premise for Singin' in the Rain; Ernest Lehman's description of how, while in conversation with Hitchcock, his unconscious suddenly solved the plot problems in North by Northwest; Carl Gottlieb's remembrance of the terrible pressure involved with writing the script for Jaws while shooting was already underway; and Sylvester Stallone's account of how he received final approval to star in Rocky from studio executives who thought he was just another actor.
PRAISE FOR TIMES SQUARE AND OTHER STORIES:
How wonderful to come across such a serious collection of short stories! Not “serious” as in boring and tendentious; but serious as in grown-up, broadminded, large-hearted, sharply observed, and dryly, obliquely funny. Bill Baer’s fiction kicks ass.
— Pinckney Benedict, author of Town Smoke
As elegantly written as they are inventive, the short stories in Times Square and Other Stories engage the reader all the way from the title piece, an ambitious tale that draws upon art, love, and the complex beauty of the human narrative, through eight other works that touch upon the timeless questions of what it means to create and to act, to be and to pretend. Baer’s collection achieves that Horatian goal so sorely lacking in much of contemporary fiction—informing while delighting at the same time. The obligation to craft is taken very seriously in these pages, but the effort that undoubtedly went into their composition could easily be overlooked due to the skill with which they are rendered, and the degree to which they are enjoyed.
— A.G. Harmon, author of A House All Stilled
Times Square and Other Stories, William Baer’s twice-measured fictions, channel the reflecting reflections of James and Borges back into our self-conscious consciousness. Like the four-story signs plastering the “real” Times Square, these signs sing themselves, maps as detailed as the things they represent. These fictions resuscitate Poe’s unities of effects, breathing life back into the simulacrum of life. I loved this book; it can’t help but blurb itself!
— Michael Martone, author of Four for a Quarter