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Grief and Meter

Elegies for Poets after Auden
Sally Connolly

BUY Cloth · 272 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813938646 · $45.00 · Nov 2016
BUY Ebook · 272 pp. · ISBN 9780813938653 · $45.00 · Nov 2016

The elegizing of poets is one of the oldest and most enduring traditions in English poetry. Many of the most influential and best-known poems in the language—such as Milton’s "Lycidas," Shelley’s "Adonais," and Auden’s "In Memory of W. B. Yeats"—are elegies for poets.

In Grief and Meter, Sally Connolly offers the first book to focus on these poems and the role they play as a specific subgenre of elegy, establishing a genealogy of poetry that traces the dynamics of influence and inheritance in twentieth- and twenty-first-century poetry. She identifies a distinctive and significant Anglo-American line of descent that resonates in these poems, with British poets often elegizing American ones, yet rarely the other way around. Further, she reveals how these poems function as a means of mediating, effecting, and tracing transatlantic poetic exchanges.

The author frames elegies for poets as a chain of commemoration and inheritance, each link independent, but when seen as part of the "golden chain," signifying a larger purpose and having a correspondingly greater strength. Grief and Meter provides a compelling account of how and why these poems are imbued with such power and significance.


Grief and Meter is intelligent, well informed, well written, and perceptive both about individual poems and about the history of twentieth-century poetry. It pays homage to a group of modern masters of the elegy--Auden, Brodsky, Berryman, Lowell, Heaney--and links them in a ‘golden chain’ of interruptions and appreciations. At the same time, it forges links between those poets and the long line of earlier poets who have built traditions of mourning and celebration. And it communicates a love of poetry that should appeal to readers.

Lawrence Lipking, Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities Emeritus, Northwestern University

Sally Connolly's Grief and Meter is unusually thought-provoking. Intrapoetic elegy, she argues, is how the living poet resurrects the dead poet, creating supertemporal community and tradition. Connolly's study reminds us what we conventionally forget—that poetry has a ceremonial origin. Her chapters on individual elegists (Auden, Brodsky, Lowell, Berryman, Heaney) are perceptive, graced by refreshingly sharp close readings.

John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus, University College London, author of A Little History of Literature

About the Author(s): 

Sally Connolly is Director of Graduate Studies in English and Associate Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the University of Houston.

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