Celebrating the voices, current and past, that surface in lyric poetry

Table of contents


  1. 2005-2010: This Work Which is Not One

No Experience Necessary                                                                 
Instinctual Ballast: Imitation and Creative Writing                          
On Sonnet Thought                                                                           
Humor Anxiety                                                                                    
Allusion and Context in Contemporary American Poetry                
Ed Roberson’s Inward Lyricism                                                        
Light in Nagasaki: Catherine McCarthy’s “We Walk On Jewels”
“Some Chant I’m Working At”                                                         
An Elegy for Dancing                                                                           

  1. 2011-2015:  Gravity, Images, and the Hand

On Nonconformists and Strange Gravity                                          
The Emily Dickinsons                                                                                  
“A Lovely Finish I Have Seen”: Voice and Variorum in Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box              
“Arranging, Deepening, Enchanting” : Catherine McCarthy’s        
Flower Arranging
A Farm, Two Spiders, and A Book of Luminous Things:
Czeslaw Milosz’s Affinity for the Image                     
Turning, Troping, Wresting: Michael Ryan’s “My Dream by
Henry James”                                                                                    
“Found Breath”: The Contemporary “Mainstream” Lyric               

  1.  2015-2021: Voicing the Overplus

Prosopopoeia: The Throwing of a Voice                                          
“Velvety Velour” and Other Sonnet Textures in Gwendolyn Brooks’s “the children of the poor”                                
“Cinnamon.  Eyeshadow.  Dove”: Considering Jean Valentine (1934-2020)          
On Ghosts and the Overplus              


Ghosts and the Overplus is a celebration of lyric poetry in the twenty-first century and how lyric poetry incorporates the voices of our age as well as the poetic “ghosts” from the past. Acclaimed poet and award-winning teacher Christina Pugh is fascinated by how poems continually look backward into literary history. Her essays find new resonance in poets ranging from Emily Dickinson to Gwendolyn Brooks to the poetry of the present. Some of these essays also consider the way that poetry interacts with the visual arts, dance, and the decision to live life as a nonconformist. This wide-ranging collection showcases the critical discussions around poetry that took place in America over the first two decades of our current millennium. Essay topics include poetic forms continually in migration, such as the sonnet; poetic borrowings across visual art and dance; and the idiosyncrasies of poets who lived their lives against the grain of literary celebrity and trend. What unites all of these essays is a drive to dig more deeply into the poetic word and act: to go beyond surface reading in order to reside longer with poems. In essays both discursive and personal, Pugh shows that poetry asks us to think differently—in a way that gathers feeling into the realm of thought, thereby opening the mysteries that reside in us and in the world around us.

Christina Pugh has published five books of poems including Stardust Media (2020), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry from the University of Massachusetts Press. She has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, the Bogliasco Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council. A recent Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, she is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Elegance, restraint, conviction, and a quiet authority have always been the hallmarks of Christina Pugh’s remarkable prose; she brings a delicate intellectual acuity to her essays which is made capacious by her compassionate wisdom. Reading Christina Pugh’s essays I’m always astonished by the subtle yet deeply profound intimacy in her writing. With this collection, Christina Pugh has joined poets David Baker, Robert Hass, and Rosanna Warren as one of the most compelling essayists we have in American poetry. I treasure this book.”

- David St. John, author of The Last Troubadour: New and Selected Poems

“A spirited, nonconformist book. Christina Pugh has been covering the waterfront of poetry in English for years as poet, critic, teacher, and editor, and her essays rise from those rambles. She reads Dickinson and Bishop against the fashionable grain, plucks at the notion of ‘mainstream poetry,’ and brings us up close to Jonson, Milton, Stevens, Milosz, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ed Roberson, and others in prose both sensuous and precise. A rich adventure of poetic discovery.”

- Rosanna Warren, author of So Forth: Poems

"Today's poetry is infused with a lyric gesture toward storytelling and showing cultural revolutions. As Pugh shows, American lyrics poets offer dense, elegant, and fierce language to lean into . . . Recommended."

- Choice

Watch: Reading from Christina Pugh | April 3, 2024