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The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, 1995-1960, from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  37 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
This extraordinary account, by a participant who knew them all, offers vivid reminiscences of Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich, Stanley Kunitz, Sylvia Plath, Richard Wilbur, Anne Sexton, W. S. Merwin, and many others who interacted with each other and shaped American poetry at mid-century.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1994)
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Jamie
May 26, 2009 Jamie rated it really liked it
Davison's memoir centers on his experiences in the frequently kooky, wildly fruitful, and endlessly fascinating Boston poetry scene of the 1950s and 60s. With cameos from Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, the Merwins, Robert Lowell, Maxine Kumin, and Adrienne Rich (among many, many others), this was a stunning glimpse into an intellectual and creative community that (I would argue) is potentially unrivaled in literary history.

Though I didn't give the book five stars (the organization cou
...more
Jon
Aug 02, 2011 Jon added it
Peter Davison combines memoir and criticism in this nostalgic, unsentimental look at a variety of poets who lived and worked in the Boston area during the 1950s and 60s. Favorite anecdote: W. S. Merwin follows Robert Lowell around at a party asking him what he thinks of his work until Lowell finally tells Merwin he's "a first-rate second-rate poet." (Well, you had to ask, Merwin.) Davison himself is hard on writers who he thinks failed to live up to their potential, such as Adrienne Rich,or who ...more
Nicolas Shump
Jun 15, 2012 Nicolas Shump rated it it was amazing
A poignant, lyrical, and revealing memoir on Boston area poets like Lowell, Plath, Anne Sexton, and others. Davison seems to have known or met everyone. He dated Plath briefly, attended Harvard with many of these writers, and as the poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a publisher and editor, published many of these writers.
I like his decision to organize this book around the Boston literary scene. Though it usually only devotes a chapter to a particular poet, I think his portraits are oft
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max
Mar 16, 2007 max rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bostonians
Shelves: library
Required reading for those purporting to take an interest in literary Boston. You will be amazed at the vast nuclear fission device that was the Hub in the 60s and 70--bringing together and splitting apart the greatest minds of American verse, and ultimately melting down into personal tragedy and "confessional" poetry.

Peter Davison is the perfect guide, looking out over the landscape from his office at the Atlantic Monthly, where he worked from his late 20s till his death last year.
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Some interesting anecdotes about poets in and around Boston in late 40s, early 50s.
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Peter Davison was an American poet, essayist, teacher, lecturer, editor, and publisher.

Davison worked as an editor at the Atlantic Monthly Press and Houghton Mifflin. He was also poetry editor for Atlantic Monthly. He was part of a literary milieu that included Robert Lowell, Robert Frost, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Richard Wilbur, and Donald Hall.

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