My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This “short” history is 427 pages long (excluding Bibliographies and Index), but it’s eminently readable, not nearly so tedious as much shorter histories. This highly engaging book educates and entertains, enlightens and provokes, sensibly organizing about three centuries, 1600’s to circa 1970, of USA poetry written in English (omitting languages of native first peoples). Each of the twelve chapters begins with a brief overview of a particular literary era, then proceeds in sections, poet by poet, focusing on the major writers but also including some lesser-knowns. Donald Barlow Stauffer lavishes upon his readers the wealth of his scholarship as well as the vivacity of his enthusiasm. His knowledge extends beyond classroom essentials into the realms of juicy biographical tidbits, illuminating passages from many iconic poems, intricate webs of artistic influences, opinionated judgments upon the legacies of individuals. And all this, written in clear prose unhindered by academic pretense or jargon.