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Obscenity and Disruption in the Poetry of Dylan Krieger

Thomas Simmons

Obscenity and Disruption in the Poetry of Dylan Krieger is the first full-length study of the radical poetry of Baton Rouge-based poet Dylan Krieger. Wickedly smart, iconoclastic, daring in their critiques of religion and contemporary culture, Krieger’s poems rank with Allen Ginsberg’s and Adrienne Rich’s as the most provocative and avant-garde of any recent generation. With its debt to third-wave feminism and the "Gurlesque," Krieger’s work nevertheless moves outward and backward across the landmines of sexual precocity and religious fundamentalism and across the entire western project of epistemology as Krieger came to understand it at the University of Notre Dame. Though this book necessarily stays close to Krieger’s specific poems, it follows her lead in stretching her cultural, sexual, and religious furies to their apotheosis in a manifesto of liberation.

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Conclusion: First Four Books of Poems


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First Four Books of Poems

Readers with long memories may be wondering why I am treating Krieger’s first four books of poems as a set—that is, something along the lines of Dylan Krieger: The First Four Books of Poems—which of course would invoke Louise Glück’s First Four Books of Poems from Ecco in 1995,1 and W. S. Merwin’s First Four Books of Poems from Atheneum in 1975.2 Even the simplest answer is not uncomplicated, and thus I wanted to conclude here with some observations about the interweavings of a particular quartet of texts.

Merwin’s First Four Books of Poems—including the 1952 A Mask for Janus, the 1954 The Dancing Bears, the 1956 Green with Beasts, and the 1960 The Drunk in the Furnace—is a compendium of brilliance at a pivotal time in American letters, when the nation began to awaken to its prejudices and outrages, as (with Merwin often abroad as a tutor in France, Portugal, Majorca) much of the world did the same. Merwin’s early work is primarily formal—sometimes in rhymed iambics or blank verse, sometimes in a breath-phrase-measured free verse with end rhymes and slant rhymes, beautiful to hear and often ingenious. He engages extant mythologies and creates mythologies of his own: his “chapters for a bestiary” in Green with Beasts includes revisions and elisions of traditional (“Leviathan”) and utterly commonplace (“Dog”) animals, and “East of the Sun and West of...

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