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A Long High Whistle

David Biespiel

Over the course of ten years from 2003–2013, poet and critic David Biespiel published a brief, dazzling essay on poetry every month in the book review of The Oregonian in what became the longest-running newspaper column on poetry in the United States.


Collected here for the first time, these enormously popular essays, many of which have been revised and expanded, offer a fresh and refreshing approach to the reading and writing of poetry. With passion, wit, and common sense, they articulate a profound and entertaining statement about the mysteries of poetry and about poetry's essential role in our civic and cultural lives.


A Long High Whistle discusses the work of nearly a hundred poets from ancient times to the present, in English and in translation—among them Catullus, Ovid, John Keats, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, W. B.
Yeats, Osip Mandelstam, Robert Hayden, Muriel Rukeyser, Pablo Neruda, Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Tomas Tranströmer, Inger Christensen, Natasha Trethewey, and many others. This collection will provide anyone, from the beginning poet to the mature writer to the lover of literature, with insights into what inspires poets, how poems are written and read, and how poetry situates itself in American life.


Excerpts from A Long High Whistle:


Preface: Thrill at the Triumphs »

Revere and Condemn »


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David Biespiel was born in 1964 in Oklahoma and grew up in Harris County, Texas, in Houston. He is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Charming Gardeners and The Book of Men and Women, which was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and received the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry, and a book on creativity, Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces. He is the editor of the Everyman's Library edition of Poems of the American South and Long Journey: Contemporary Northwest Poets, which received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. He writes the Poetry Wire column for The Rumpus and is a member of the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle. Among his honors are a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and a Lannan Fellowship. Since 1999 he has been president of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in Portland with his family.