For more than a century, American poets have heeded the siren song of Ezra Pound's make it new, staking a claim for the next poem on the supposed obsolescence of the last. But great poems are forever rehearsing their own present, inviting readers into a nowness that makes itself new each time we read or reread them. They create the present moment as we enter it, their language relying on the long history of lyric poetry while at the same time creating a feeling of unprecedented experience.
In poet and critic James Longenbach's title, the word "now" does double duty, evoking both a lyric sense of the present and twentieth-century writers' assertion of "nowness" as they crafted their poetry in the wake of Modernism. Longenbach examines the fruitfulness of poetic repetition and indecision, of naming and renaming, and of the evolving search for newness in the construction, history, and life of lyrics. Looking to the work of thirteen poets, from Marianne Moore and T. S. Eliot through George Oppen and Jorie Graham to Carl Phillips and Sally Keith, and several musicians, including Virgil Thomson and Patti Smith, he shows how immediacy is constructed through language. Longenbach also considers the life and times of these poets, taking a close look at the syntax and diction of poetry, and offers an original look at the nowness of lyrics.