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This article is taken from PN Review 245, Volume 45 Number 3, January - February 2019.

on Alvin Feinman
On Alvin Feinman’s Preambles
Chris Miller
WHEN ALVIN FEINMAN published Preambles and Other Poems in 1964, he already knew, it seems, that his poems were no prelude. They were not a preparation for his corpus but defined the terms debarring him from further poetic composition. The book is at once an allegory/analysis of poetic creation, a genre of which Stevens and Bonnefoy are the exemplary exponents, and an iconic work of aporia or despair. Neither category would matter if Feinman were not a poet of distinction. He is. The chorus of praise that accompanied the publication of Preambles included Allen Tate (‘“Pilgrim Heights” is one of the best poems by an American that I have seen in many years’), Conrad Aiken (‘This is a true metaphysical poetry, a poetry of the whole consciousness… the most exciting thing since Stevens’) and Harold Bloom (‘This volume may be regarded, some day, as we now regard Wallace Steven’s Harmonium and Hart Crane’s White Buildings, as a “first book” that became an essential part of the imaginative consciousness of the age.’) I shared their admiration when, finding some of Feinman’s poems in Bloom’s The Ringers in the Tower, I immediately sought out the book. Certain of his lines imprinted themselves on my imagination and have remained with me for more than thirty years. A question then arises why Feinman remains little known, despite the publication of a ‘complete poems’ in 2016, Corrupted into Song.* One reason is that his literary reputation was not accumulated over successive volumes; he was, seemingly from the start, a ‘dead poet’. Another is the acute difficulty of ...


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