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One Kind of Everything

Poem and Person in Contemporary America

One Kind of Everything elucidates the uses of autobiography and constructions of personhood in American poetry since World War II, with helpful reference to American literature in general since Emerson. Taking on one of the most crucial issues in American poetry of the last fifty years, celebrated poet Dan Chiasson explores what is lost or gained when real-life experiences are made part of the subject matter and source material for poetry. In five extended, scholarly essays—on Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Frank Bidart, Frank O’Hara, and Louise Glück—Chiasson looks specifically to bridge the chasm between formal and experimental poetry in the United States. Regardless of form, Chiasson argues that recent American poetry is most thoughtful when it engages most forcefully with autobiographical material, either in an effort to embrace it or denounce it.

208 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2007

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature


“Dan Chiasson is the man we’ve been waiting for—a critic of good sense and grand sensibility, who can respond with alert clear intelligence to all aspects of a poet’s work. Reading One Kind of Everything, I long to be adequate to his receptivity and insightfulness, and it is a testament to his lucid prose that for pages at a time I have the illusion that I am.”

Sven Birkerts

"Poet and critic Dan Chiasson’s debut collection of essays focuses on the role of autobiography in poetry and the issues that arise from poems of personal experience. . . . Chaisson argues that whether a poet is actively employing autobiography or developing personas and barriers that veil his or her true self, it is when the poet engages the challenges of identity in poems that the writing is at its most thoughful."

American Poet

"In demonstrating the prevalence of subjectivity in 20th-century poetry, Chaisson is scrupulous in his attention to detail: footnotes and attributions to recent criticism amplify his developing argument."


"In vigorous, engaging  essays that are mercifully free of jargon, [Chiasson] explores the role of autobiography in the work of Lowell, Bishop, Bidart, O’Hara, Glück, and the Language school. . . . His earlier critique of the Language poets—that they fail to ’delight and instruct,’ cannot be extended to Chiasson’s book: delighting and instructing is exactly what One Kind of Everything accomplishes."

Ellen Davis | Salamander

Table of Contents

Introduction: “One Kind of Everything”
Reading Objects: Robert Lowell
Elizabeth Bishop on Autobiographical Grounds
Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically
The Tenses of Frank O’Hara
Forms of Narrative in the Poetry of Louise Glück
Conclusion: Autobiography and the Language School
Works Cited

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