Cover image for Figurehead & other poems
Figurehead & other poems
Hollander, John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1999.
Physical Description:
vi, 89 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.O3485 F54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In a major review inThe New Republicof John Hollander's two earlier books,TesseraeandSelected Poetry(both 1993), Vernon Shetley said, "John Hollander's poetry has shown a visionary power just often enough to secure him a place as one of the major figures of our moment." Figurehead, a lively, varied, and technically dazzling book, confirms the statement made by Henry Taylor in theWashington Times:"John Hollander revels in technical challenges of unusual severity and complexity, yet most of his poems also have the emotional heft of something worth pausing over and remembering." One of the most gifted of W. H. Auden's choices for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, Hollander has pursued the wide range and metrical brilliance of Auden's own poetry, so that this new book exhibits both a large compass of subject matter (from philosophical matters to personal narrative) and, as usual, some astonishing meditations on paintings--here, by Charles Sheeler, Rene Magritte, and Edward Hopper. By turns witty, touching, profound, mocking, ingenious, and always clever, Hollander's poems are a joy for the reader. He is a modern master.

Author Notes

John Hollander has edited several Everyman's Library Pocket Poet volumes, including "Robert Frost", "Christmas Poems", "War Poems", "Marriage Poems", "Animal Poems", & "Garden Poems". He is the A. Bartlett Biamatti Professor of English at Yale University, & the author of numerous books of poetry & criticism. He was made a MacArthur Fellow in 1990.

(Publisher Provided) John Hollander was born in Manhattan, New York on October 28, 1929. He received a B.A. in 1950 and a master's degree in 1952 from Columbia University and a doctorate in 1959 from Indiana University. He taught at Connecticut College, Hunter College, and Yale University, where he was named Sterling Professor of English in 1995 and retired in 2002.

As a young poet, he fell under the influence of W. H. Auden and it was Auden who selected Hollander's first collection of poems, A Crackling of Thorns, for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, which was published it in 1958 with an introduction by Auden. During his lifetime he wrote several collections of poetry including The Night Mirror: Poems, Harp Lake, Tesserae, and A Draft of Light. He also wrote many works of criticism including The Untuning of the Sky: Ideas of Music in English Poetry, 1500-1700, Vision and Resonance, The Gazer's Spirit, and The Work of Poetry. He edited the two-volume collection American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century for the Library of America. He died of pulmonary congestion on August 17, 2013 at the age of 83.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Busy busy busy" as the spinners of "Las Hilanderas," the poems in Hollander's complex 17th collection (following 1993's Tesserae) toil and trouble over the work of representation. With his nose habitually close to the book, the professorial poet and critic (The Gazer's Spirit; Rhyme's Reason; etc.) tries on a number of metrical and tropic hats to make this book a manual of the craft. Identifying with "the spider/ Spinning out of its own guts," Hollander's work takes its external structure from its author's internal composition. No wonder then that strains and forms from the Old Testament to Browning to James Merrill make their way into this web. Hollander's scholarship is everywhere in evidence, as is his playfulness. In the Swinburnian "A Fragment Twice Repaired," "JH" (as he names himself) gives voice to the torn papyrus that's all we have of the Tenth Muse and corrects the errors wrecked on text by "Eras of eros." Punning and teasing‘nearly a nuisance in "Variations on a Tabletop"‘the poet teaches his readers a lesson. There is about these poems the whiff of mortality. Asserting that "There's no reaching through any final curtain/ With some last work, adding a participle," Hollander warns of the limits of language and its inability to prevent the dust from turning back to dust. (Mar.) FYI: Hollander's A Crackling of Thorns won the 1958 Yale Younger Poets Series Prize. He is Sterling Professor of English at Yale. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Witty and highly interactive, these new poems in Hollander's 17th book of poetry recall the sumptuously inventive and playful work in two of his earlier books, Types of Shape (1969; Yale Univ., 1991. reprint) and Reflections on Espionage (LJ 4/15/76). All kinds of punning, visual and verbal, abound here, underscoring Hollander's theme of "double-dealings/ With ourselves." There is a long poem about hyper-realist Charles Sheeler's "The Artist Looks at Nature" (1943)‘a poem about a painting that is itself about painting. Hollander even treats us to a retelling of Browning's "My Last Duchess." He delights in all kinds of rhymes and slant rhymes in the manner of Lewis Carroll or Gerard Manley Hopkins, like this sequence in "Getting from Here to There": "dawn, darn, dark, dirk, disk, dusk." Every poem is a "modeled fable/ of something occurring in the mind." Required for all larger collections.‘Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



So Red Blossoms in the late October light, of such a saturated red: what can flower now? only the now awakened dark and dull maroon-- like the unburnished metal of copper beeches shadowing itself-- of midsummer and spring burning the japanese maple's dying leaves have fired the bursting into astonished color of the very self of lateness, lastness which itself can never last longer than the few moments--in this case October days--it takes to make itself intense in, to put forth something of light that had either been waiting all along to reveal itself or more likely, escaping its dead body of leaf. It hits the road with a visual halloo as of a bright scarf or a letting of arterial blood in a high ceremony-- annual, but so loud this year--of impatience and acknowledgement. Excerpted from Figurehead: And Other Poems by John Hollander All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.