Not long ago, a form letter arrived in my mail, part of a subscription drive for Poetry Magazine, featuring a quote from editor Don Share. Though finely worded, the message was simple: the value of poetry lies in the way its form heightens our senses to the details of our world, the way it encourages us to read the day with the same torqued curiosity that we read the page. More complicated than it looks, this assertion reflects a set of assumptions that inform not only how we value contemporary poetry but how we understand that value as a transferable skill. The four books reviewed here, focusing predominantly on Anglo-American postwar poetry, offer different views into that transfer, providing an overarching account of how poetry pays attention to the world.

Epstein is most explicitly concerned with the aesthetics of attention, as...

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