The Poetics of the Everyday, by Siobhan Phillips

The Poetics of the Everyday describes how American poets of the twentieth century transform everyday life from a humdrum duty into a creative opportunity. For many modernists, ordinary habituation seems the antithesis of aesthetic practice, effecting an enervation of sensibility and a homogenization of self. The writers of my study resist both results by showing how the quotidian can serve as a theme and form for artistic craft. They do so by exploiting the characteristic pattern of everyday time, an over-and-over repetition that is always consistent and yet always novel. In this perpetually cyclic advance, mental agency can find realistic purchase, as one’s internal decision to begin each new-old day joins the world’s external tendency to renew each new-old dawn. Daily time thus helps writers to address a dualistic divide without succumbing to extremes of self-authorized transcendence and self-abnegating immanence.

This study traces the specific means of this reconciliation in Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill, with attention to other writers, and with a final chapter extending the influence of ordinary verse into comparisons with John Ashbery and several contemporary poets. Among this analysis, my book also relates the poetic use of repetition to philosophical considerations of various post-religious thinkers, including Freud, James, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Cavell, while showing how daily verse revises traditional and fresh definitions of poetic form. The implications of everyday poetics also touch on functions of elegy, applications of ordinary-language philosophy, terms of ecocritical analysis, and extensions of queer theory. The result is a study that I hope will interest many readers working in modernism, American studies, and lyric theory.

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Selected Reviews and Articles:

“World Enough: Eric Hayot’s On Literary Worlds Los Angeles Review of Books (6 July 2013)

“The Progressive Puritan: Revisiting the Poems of Marianne Moore” Boston Review (16 May 2013)

“Elizabeth Bishop and the Ethics of Correspondence” Modernism/modernity 19.2 (2012) 343-63

“All Together Now” Los Angeles Review of Books (22 February 2012)

“All Together Now” Boston Review (January/February 2012)

“Astounding Cosmic News” Los Angeles Review of Books (9 June 2011)

“So This is It…So This Is It” (6 May 2011)

“No More Irony” (7 January 2011)

“What We Talk About When We Talk About Food” The Hudson Review 62 (2009)

“Merit and Mystery: Marilynne Robinson” Yale Review 97.2 (April 2009)

“The Daily Living of Robert Frost” PMLA 123.3 (2008)

“Taking Care of the Future: Some Letters of Wallace Stevens” (edited and introduced) Yale Review 96.1 (January 2008)

“Robbins in New York” Yale Review 97.1 (January 2009)

“Mark Morris, Forward and Back” The Hudson Review 59 (2006)

“Forward to Balanchine” The Hudson Review 58 (2005)

Selected Poems:

“A Vocation” in Kenyon Review Online

“Regret” on Agni

“At War” from Literary Imagination

“Inventions” from Literary Imagination