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The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt

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Paperback published by Knopf (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
When Amy Clampitt's first book of poems, The Kingfisher, was published in January 1983, the response was jubilant. The poet was sixty-three years old, and there had been no debut like hers in recent memory. "A dance of language," said May Swenson. "A genius for places," wrote J. D. McClatchy, and the New York Times Book Review said, "With the publication of her brilliant first book, Clampitt immediately merits consideration as one of the most distinguished contemporary poets."

She went on to publish four more collections in the next eleven years, the last one, A Silence Opens, appearing in the year she died.

Now, for the first time, the five collections are brought together in a single volume, allowing us to experience anew the distinctiveness of Amy Clampitt's voice: the brilliant language--an appealing mix of formal and everyday expression--that poured out with such passion and was shaped in rhythms and patterns entirely her own.

Amy Clampitt's themes are the very American ones of place and displacement. She, like her pioneer ancestors, moved frequently, but she wrote with lasting and deep feeling about all sorts of landscapes--the prairies of her Iowa childhood, the fog-wrapped coast of Maine, and places she visited in Europe, from the western isles of Scotland to Italy's lush countryside. She lived most of her adult life in New York City, and many of her best-known poems, such as "Times Square Water Music" and "Manhattan Elegy," are set there.

She did not hesitate to take on the larger upheavals of the twentieth century--war, Holocaust, exile--and poems like "The Burning Child" and "Sed de Correr" remind us of the dark nightmare lurking in the interstices of our daily existence.

It is impossible to speak of Amy Clampitt's poetry without mentioning her immense, lifelong love of birds and wildflowers, a love that produced some of her most profound images--like the kingfisher's "burnished plunge, the color / of felicity afire," which came "glancing like an arrow / through landscapes of untended memory" to remind her of the uninhabitable sorrow of an affair gone wrong; or the sun underfoot among the sundews, "so dazzling / . . . that, looking, / you start to fall upward."

The Collected Poems offers us a chance to consider freshly the breadth of Amy Clampitt's vision and poetic achievement. It is a volume that her many admirers will treasure and that will provide a magnificent introduction for a new generation of readers.

With a foreword by Mary Jo Salter
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When Amy Clampitt's first book of poems, The Kingfisher, was published in January 1983, the response was jubilant. The poet was sixty-three years old, and there had been no debut like hers in recent memory. "A dance of language," said May Swenson. "A genius for places," wrote J. D. McClatchy, and the New York Times Book Review said, "With the publication of her brilliant first book, Clampitt immediately merits consideration as one of the most distinguished contemporary poets."

She went on to publish four more collections in the next eleven years, the last one, A Silence Opens, appearing in the year she died.

Now, for the first time, the five collections are brought together in a single volume, allowing us to experience anew the distinctiveness of Amy Clampitt's voice: the brilliant language--an appealing mix of formal and everyday expression--that poured out with such passion and was shaped in rhythms and patterns entirely her own.

Amy Clampitt's themes are the very American ones of place and displacement. She, like her pioneer ancestors, moved frequently, but she wrote with lasting and deep feeling about all sorts of landscapes--the prairies of her Iowa childhood, the fog-wrapped coast of Maine, and places she visited in Europe, from the western isles of Scotland to Italy's lush countryside. She lived most of her adult life in New York City, and many of her best-known poems, such as "Times Square Water Music" and "Manhattan Elegy," are set there.

She did not hesitate to take on the larger upheavals of the twentieth century--war, Holocaust, exile--and poems like "The Burning Child" and "Sed de Correr" remind us of the dark nightmare lurking in the interstices of our daily existence.

It is impossible to speak of Amy Clampitt's poetry without mentioning her immense, lifelong love of birds and wildflowers, a love that produced some of her most profound images--like the kingfisher's "burnished plunge, the color / of felicity afire," which came "glancing like an arrow / through landscapes of untended memory" to remind her of the uninhabitable sorrow of an affair gone wrong; or the sun underfoot among the sundews, "so dazzling / . . . that, looking, / you start to fall upward."

The Collected Poems offers us a chance to consider freshly the breadth of Amy Clampitt's vision and poetic achievement. It is a volume that her many admirers will treasure and that will provide a magnificent introduction for a new generation of readers.

With a foreword by Mary Jo Salter
Product Details
Paperback (496 pages)
Published: April 20, 1999
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Knopf
ISBN: 9780375700644
Other books byAmy Clampitt
  • Love, Amy

    Love, Amy
    The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt
    This extraordinary collection of letters sheds light on one of the most important postwar American poets and on a creative woman's life from the 1950s onward. Amy Clampitt was an American original, a literary woman from a Quaker family in rural Iowa who came to New York after college and lived in Manhattan for almost forty years before she found success (or before it found her) at the age of 63 with the publication of The Kingfisher. Her letters from 1950 until her death in 1994 are a testimony to her fiercely independent spirit and her quest for various kinds of truth-religious, spiritual, political, and artistic. Written in clear, limpid prose, Clampitt's letters illuminate the habits of imagination she would later use to such effect in her poetry. She offers, with wit and intelligence, an intimate and personal portrait of life as an independent woman recently arrived in New York City. She recounts her struggle to find a place for herself in the world of literature as well as the excitement of living in Manhattan. In other letters she describes a religious conversion (and then a gradual religious disillusionment) and her work as a political activist. Clampitt also reveals her passionate interest in and fascination with the world around her. She conveys her delight in a variety of day-to-day experiences and sights, reporting on trips to Europe, the books she has read, and her walks in nature. After struggling as a novelist, Clampitt turned to poetry in her fifties and was eventually published in the New Yorker. In the last decade of her life she appeared like a meteor on the national literary scene, lionized and honored. In letters to Helen Vendler, Mary Jo Salter, and others, she discusses her poetry as well as her surprise at her newfound success and the long overdue satisfaction she obviously felt, along with gratitude, for her recognition.

    Selected Poems

    Selected Poems
    When Amy Clampitt’s first collection, The Kingfisher, was published, it was hailed as that rare first book that “signals a major poet in full bloom” (Los Angeles Times). Its author was sixty-three years old. Over the next eleven years, Clampitt produced four additional, major collections. Now, the most essential poems from these five volumes are gathered together. Clampitt was an impassioned observer of the natural world, the delights of which color many of these poems: writing of the fog, she described “a stuff so single / it might almost be lifted, / folded over, crawled underneath / or slid between, as nakedness- / caressingsheets.” Such was the texture of her language, too. She was a traveler, reporting back from England and Greece, from California and Maine, and from her native Midwest. An Iowa transplant to New York, the descendant of pioneers, she wrote of prairies and subways; of the movements of wildflowers, people, and ideas; and of the widespread modern experience of uprootedness. Here is a treasure of Amy Clampitt’s verse, for those who are reading her for the first time, as well as for those who have long admired her.

    Predecessors, et Cetera

    Predecessors, et Cetera
    Essays
    Reflecting on her poetic predecessors and contemporaries, Amy Clampitt reveals the many connections in their craft

    What the Light Was Like

    What the Light Was Like

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