Cover image for The lords of misrule : poems, 1992-2001
The lords of misrule : poems, 1992-2001
Kennedy, X. J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 92 pages ; 23 cm.
Format :


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PS3521.E563 L67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The Lords of Misrule , X. J. Kennedy's seventh volume of poetry, exhibits his characteristic blend of wit, intellectual curiosity, and formal mastery. The sixty poems collected here explore a wide range of subjects: a scathing curse on a sneak-thief, a wry ballad of Henry James and his not-quite lover Constance Fenimore Woolson, an elegy for Allen Ginsberg, incisive views of contemporary Egypt, a serio-comic meditation on the relic of St. Teresa of Avila which Spain's General Franco kept at his bedside, and a response to the events of September 11. Like the controlled frenzy of medieval Christmas festivities presided over by the appointed Lords of Misrule, Kennedy's poems possess a chaotic humor and frenetic energy held within tight metrical bounds. In his latest collection, Kennedy confirms his reputation as one of America's most accomplished and engaging poets.

Author Notes

Widely anthologized, Kennedy's poetry may not be as influential among contemporary poets as others' because of his preference for, in his words, "old-fangled structures most poets have junked these days." As Kennedy's comments on his verse suggest, his poetry is witty, concise, and unpretentious. His subject matter is drawn from the everyday including his Catholic background and middle-class suburban life. Yet his concerns can be profound including death, violence, suicide, and Genesis.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

New England's master of light verse returns to familiarly sardonic territory in this, his seventh collection, which mixes dry wit and restrained verse-narrative with poems on surprisingly serious subjects. Among the latter: a mentally ill failed opera singer who roams a New Jersey town; the "crappy days" of 1950s patriarchy (and the aging men who often look back to them); and a "Ballad of [Constance] Fenimore Woolson and Henry James," describing the 19th century writers' Platonic romance (which James encouraged, then rejected) in the all-American rhythms of "Frankie and Johnny." Kennedy even closes the sometimes-somber volume with a clipped and saddened poem about September 11 (entitled "Sept. 12, 2002"). Devotees of the feuilletons and commentaries from which Kennedy made his name will certainly appreciate the volume's "Invocation," in which "sweet Meter" and "strict-lipped Stanza" "confine jubilation/ To tolerable order"; meter and stanza also guide Kennedy's tribute to Allen Ginsberg, in many ways Kennedy's polar opposite, whose "Glee and sweetness, freaky light" give the volume its name. Though less original (and less often laugh-out-loud funny) than its clear precedents in the midcentury poetry of George Starbuck or John Updike, Kennedy's work remains cultured, likable and witty. (Dec.) Forecast: Despite a shelf of awards for his own poetry (the Lamont Prize for 1961's Nude Descending a Staircase, the Los Angeles Times Prize for 1985's Cross Ties) Kennedy's reputation still rests on his textbooks, including An Introduction to Poetry, co-written with new NEA president Dana Gioia. Kennedy's associations with New Formalism in general, and Gioia in particular, should bring in seasoned admirers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved