WOW--an incredibly thoughtful analysis, and
quite to the point.

I agree about the constant reevaluations of his
work.  I looked closely at both versions of
Brother to Dragons, and (despite what many
critics have said) am impressed with his
thoughtful reworking of Meriwether Lewis, both
as character and as symbol.

Thank you.

--- "D.Gregory Griffith" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Michelle,
> Here are a few thoughts on Penn Warren that factor into an
> assessment of his work:
> First, I think RPW is currently underestimated as your
> professor observes.
> That may be due in part to the very long time it has taken for
> a standard "collected"
> or "complete" edition of his work to appear. I've had
> conversations with a buddy
> of mine on this issue, and both of us were surprised his
> "Collected Poems" had not
> appeared, since we both knew it was "in the making"--my buddy
> knows John Burt
> (the editor of the project), and we waited and waited and
> waited for the
> published volume to come out. Now that the book has appeared
> (LSU Press, 1998),
> it illustrates both why Burt had such a hard time bringing the
> book out and perhaps
> one reason RPW's undervalued--there are at times as many as
> five or six different
> published versions of a given Warren poem! He may be
> undervalued because he's
> a "moving target," always revising and frequently making
> substantive revisions.
> It's tough to know a given Warren poem. I've had the
> experience myself of reading
> a poem in an anthology, only to find it a very different poem
> in the volume where it
> originally appeared and/or in the New and Selected 1923-43
> and/or the New&S.
> 1923-85. A look at the two published versions of Brothers to
> Dragons can
> serve as an example. You may have heard some or all of this,
> so pardon me
> if I'm repeating things your prof. said in championing him or
> teaching his work.
> A second reason why he may have received less attention than
> he deserves is,
> like many poets, his work has gone out of print quickly. He
> was published by
> some pretty big name presses (Random House et al), but that,
> strangely enough, means a quick run and
> no reprints. His work was not long and consistently
> before the eyes of readers, critics, and other poets. I am not
> sure of this, but I
> think at one time around 1985-90, I tried to get a large
> sampling of his work
> and only New and Selected 1923-85 was available, and that's a
> drop in the
> bucket when compared to the 16 volumes he produced. I am
> fortunate that the
> University of Cincinnati has one of the biggest collections of
> modern and
> contemporary poetry in the country--The Elliston Poetry
> Room--and I was able
> to read a great deal of his work in the original published
> volumes through that
> source. A third reason he may not be as highly regarded at
> this moment is his
> membership in or association with the Fugitives and the
> Agrarians, two
> "movements" that were short lived, and I think folks thought
> of Penn Warren
> as "twice dead" in some strange way by association.
>     Those may be some of the reasons he has suffered in the
> last three decades.
> However, RPW has some major-league work. His new edition
> (1979) of
> Brothers to Dragons is a fantastic book-length poem, and so is
> Audubon: A
> Vision, and it wasn't so long ago that Penn Warren was a
> powerhouse man-of-
> letters. He is probably the most highly awarded, and
> credentialed poet in
> American literary history, and still the only writer to win a
> Pulitzer in both
> fiction and poetry. He garnered 3 Pulitzers, 2 National Book
> Awards,
> a Bollingen Prize, a Rhodes Scholarship, the first ever Poet
> Laureate ship
> of the US, a MacArthur foundation fellowship, 2 Guggenheim
> fellowships,
> was on both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the
> American
> Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he wrote perhaps the most
> influential
> "textbook" on poetry in the 20th century. None of these things
> makes him a
> great poet; prizes and titles aren't poems, but I think they
> do show he was
> very highly regarded throughout his career, and that some
> reevaluation of him
> is warranted, since he has gone from a position of high regard
> to nearly off
> the radar screen. I think his works Promises, 1957; Audubon: A
> Vision, 1969;
> and Brothers to Dragons (the revised 1979 edition by LSU
> Press) are great
> volumes, and it should be the core of any reassessment of his
> work, and the
> "variorum" of Burt's Collected Poems should also be carefully
> examined
> because (and I know this is a bold statement, so take it with
> a grain of salt
> or a brace of Penn Warren) not since Emily Dickinson has a
> poet had such an
> impressive "shifting" or improvisational body of work. Like
> Dickinson,
> RAW can take the core of a poem and rework it several times to
> come up
> with two or more distinct and equally wonderful versions,
> instead of a linear
> improvement from version to version. Well worth looking into
> in my opinion.
> --Greg--
> Now, while my opinion of Warren has certainly
> been raised thanks to a careful reading of his work,
> I'm not sure I agree with the professor's assessment
> of him as the unsung hero of 20th century poetry.
> Any thoughts?  What do you folks think of Warren?
> Does he stand a chance?

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