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Words as Amulets

Ange Mlinko: Barbara Guest’s Poems, 3 December 2009

The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest 
edited by Hadley HadenGuest.
Wesleyan, 525 pp., £33.95, July 2008, 978 0 8195 6860 1
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Women, the New York School and Other True Abstractions 
by Maggie Nelson.
Iowa, 288 pp., £38.50, December 2007, 978 1 58729 615 4
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... If modernism is our antiquity, as T.J. Clark has claimed, then Barbara Guest was a devout classicist. No American poet – with the exception of John Ashbery – so reverently extended early modernist aesthetics into the second half of the 20th century. As Guest put it in her essay ‘Radical Poetics and Conservative Poetry’, ‘everything we loved, emulated, was attached to the lyric modernism of Baudelaire and Mallarmé’s later writing ...

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