William Baer, a graduate of Rutgers and New York University, wrote his dissertation at the University of South Carolina under the direction of James Dickey. His work has been published in Poetry, The Hudson Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The New Criterion, and many other literary journals.
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.
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).