Illuminating the unique poetic style of Angie Estes’s poetry, from her earliest work to her most recent collection
Of Angie Estes, the poet and critic Stephanie Burt has written that she “has created some of the most beautiful verbal objects in the world.” In The Allure of Grammar, Doug Rutledge gathers insightful responses to the full range of Estes’s work—from a review of her first chapbook to a reading of a poem appearing in her 2018 book, Parole—that approach these beautiful verbal objects with both intellectual rigor and genuine awe.
In addition to presenting an overview of critical reactions to Estes’s oeuvre, reviews by Langdon Hammer, Julianne Buchsbaum, and Christopher Spaide also provide a helpful context for approaching a poet who claims to distrust narrative. Original essays consider the craft of Estes’s poetry and offer literary analysis. Ahren Warner uses line breaks to explore a postmodern analysis of Estes’s work. Mark Irwin looks at her poetic structure. Lee Upton employs a feminist perspective to explore Estes’s use of italics, and B. K. Fischer looks at the way she uses dance as a poetic image. Doug Rutledge considers her relationship to Dante and to the literary tradition through her use of ekphrasis. An interview with Estes herself, in which she speaks of a poem as an “arranged place . . . where experience happens,” adds her perspective to the mix, at turns resonating with and challenging her critics.
The Allure of Grammar will be useful for teachers and students of creative writing interested in the craft of non-narrative poetry. Readers of contemporary poetry who already admire Estes will find this collection insightful, while those not yet familiar with her work will come away from these essays eager to seek out her books.
Doug Rutledge is the editor of Ceremony and Text in the Renaissance, published by the University of Delaware Press, and the author of The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away (with photographs by Abdi Roble), published by the University of Minnesota Press. His poetry and reviews have appeared in many journals including Southern Humanities Review and Harvard Review Online.
“[F]or pure pleasure in the curves and surfaces, the glittering facets and darker recesses, of language, it’s hard if not impossible to top Angie Estes’s Enchantée.”