Cover image for Palace-burner : the selected poetry of Sarah Piatt
Palace-burner : the selected poetry of Sarah Piatt
Piatt, Sarah M. B. (Sarah Morgan Bryan), 1836-1919.
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
lx, 195 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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Format :


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Material Type
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PS2581 .A4 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt (1836-1919) now ranks as the strongest American woman poet of the nineteenth century after Emily Dickinson. Published heavily in all the period's most prestigious journals, Piatt was widely celebrated by her peers as a gifted stylist in the genteel tradition. This selected edition reveals Piatt's other side, a side that contemporary critics found more problematic: ironic, experimental, pushing the limits of Victorian language and the sentimental female persona. Spanning more than half a century, this collection reveals the borderland temper of Piatt's mind and art. As an expatriate southerner, Piatt voices guilt at her own past as the daughter of slave-holders and raw anguish at the waste of war; as an eleven-year exile in Ireland, she expresses her dismay at the indifference of the wealthy to the daily suffering of the poor. Her poetry, whether speaking of children, motherhood, marriage, or illicit love affairs, uses conventional language and forms but in ways that greatly broadened the range of what women's poetry could say. moves toward an innovative kind of dramatic realism built on dialogue, an approach more familiar to modern readers, acquainted with Faulknerian polyvocal texts, than to her contemporaries, who were as ill at ease with complexity as they were with irony. This astutely edited selection of Piatt's mature work - much of it never before collected - explains why her deviant poetics caused her peers such discomfort and why they offer such fertile ground for study today. Illustrated with engravings from Harper's Weekly and Harper's Bazaar, both periodicals in which Piatt's work appeared, Palace-Burner marks the reemergence of one of the most interesting writers in American literary history.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Bennett (Southern Illinois Univ.) has compiled a useful and representative sampling of the poetry of Sarah Piatt (1836-1919), a Kentucky-born wife and mother who endured an unhappy marriage. A prolific writer, Piatt addressed such topics as motherhood and children, the Civil War, gender, Ireland (where Piatt spent 11 years while her husband served as US consul), and various cultural issues. Although Bennett does not provide evidence for her claim that "Piatt is now emerging as, after Emily Dickinson, the nineteenth-century American woman poet most appealing to readers today," she nevertheless argues persuasively that Piatt's work deserves reassessment. Bennett suggests that the mixed, and sometimes hostile, reviews that Piatt received from her contemporaries were the result of a 19th-century readership that mistook her as a "genteel poet." On the contrary, Bennett maintains that Piatt's highly politicized, and often ironic, verses offered challenges to gentility, though she concedes that the language in some of Piatt's verses "may seem little more than a pastiche of Victoriana." Still, Piatt's voice is provocative, and her thematic complexity leaves little doubt that her poetry deserves reassessment. The edition is meticulously edited and richly illustrated with engravings from Harper's Weekly and Harper's Bazaar. Recommended for academic libraries. D. D. Knight SUNY College at Cortland