poets looking backward

AudenMeg Schoerke at The Hudson Review:

In “A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads,” Walt Whitman, at age seventy, calledLeaves of Grass “a sortie—whether to prove triumphant, and conquer its field of aim and escape and construction, nothing less than a hundred years from now can fully answer.” More than a century after his death, Whitman is often portrayed, stereotypically, as opening vistas of possibility to young poets. But his example is just as vital to poets who have, like him, devoted long lives to the art. Whitman’s poetic legacy includes the elements he enumerated in the prefaces—his expansive self; his inclusive catalogues; his formal and linguistic variety; his optimism; his celebration of the body, of sexuality, and of love between men; and his ambition to be the poet of American democracy. That legacy encompasses not only Leaves of Grass, and his many invitations to future poets to follow him down that road, but also the canniness with which he looked back on his achievement from the perspective of old age. Like Whitman, the four poets under review cast backward glances over travelled roads. And, in following Whitman, Adrienne Rich, Daniel Hoffman, Gerald Stern, and Frank Bidart also accept his invitation, issued in “Song of Myself,” to honor his style even as they “kill the teacher.”

more here.