The Life and Death of Poetry - Cover
Goodreads Icon

The Life and Death of Poetry


L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award

80 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations


  Paperback / 9780807150429 / March 2013

Winner of the 2013 L. E. Phillabaum Poetry Award

In her ninth collection of poetry, Kelly Cherry explores the domain of language. Clear and accessible, the poems in The Life and Death of Poetry examine the intricacies and limitations of communication and its ability to help us transcend our world and lives.

The poet begins with silence and animal sound before taking on literature, public discourse, and the particular art of poetry. The sequence “Welsh Table Talk” considers the unsaid, or unsayable, as a man, his daughter, and his daughter’s friend sojourn on Bardsey Island in Wales with the father’s female companion. The innocence and playful chatter of the children throw into sharp relief a desolate landscape and failed communication between the adults. 
In the book’s final section, Cherry considers translation, great art’s grand sublimity, and the relation of poetry—the divine tongue—to the everyday world. Witty, poignant, wise, and joyous, The Life and Death of Poetry offers a masterful new collection from an accomplished poet.

Kelly Cherry is the author of over twenty-five books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, ten chapbooks, and translations of two classical plays. She is Eudora Welty Professor Emerita of English and Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She and her husband live in Virginia.

Praise for The Life and Death of Poetry

“Her own exquisite: imaginative, vivid and rhythmic, in a voice that is alternately curious, meditative, mournful, witty, wise....We feel that what [Cherry] wishes to say throughout this collection, she has indeed said—with a discernment, imagination and music that leave us enchanted.”—Claudia MonPere McIsaac, America

“Cherry's wry wit and the genuine pleasure she takes in composing remind the reader of the glee young children find in discovering rhyme and meter. As always [her] poems are meticulously crafted.”—Alabama Writers’ Forum

“A past poet laureate of Virginia, [Cherry] is a poet at the height of her powers, and her talent and wit are on display in The Life and Death of Poetry.”—Baton Rouge Advocate

REVIEW: The Life and Death of Poetry (Chamber 4)

"Kelly Cherry’s The Life and Death of Poetry turns on the idea that language and communication are means of understanding and moving one another, of spreading love and forgiveness and mercy throughout the world, as a means of counteracting the destruction that has taken place."—Contemporary American Poetry Review

Found an Error? Tell us about it.