The first publication of over 150 poems from Burke's final decades
Kenneth Burke continued to write poetry after the 1968 publication of his Collected Poems, but until now the poetry from the last quarter century of his life has remained largely unpublished. Suggesting that the Burke canon is not complete without these works, Julie Whitaker and David Blakesley here assemble the poems that the celebrated critic wrote between 1968 and his death. The collection of more than 150 poems provides new evidence that Burke continued "dancing an attitude" until the end of his life.
In his introduction, Blakesley lays out the relationship between the poems and Burkean theory, including the evolution of both during the writer's last three decades. Although some poems resonate best in light of Burke's more prominent works on rhetoric and literary criticism, Blakesley argues that it would be a disservice to attribute the poetry's value strictly to what it says about Burkean theory. The poems reveal much about the man himself: an accomplished scholar reflecting on the richness of a life fully lived, a husband eloquently struggling with the death of his wife, a voracious thinker looking eagerly to the future.
In her preface, Whitaker explains the principles she employed in sifting through the vast quantity of articles, papers, and letters to uncover Burke's later poems. She also discloses Burke's intent to collect and publish these poems, touches on her personal relationship with him, and offers her observations on the place poetry held in his life and thought.
Recognized as one of the most influential critics and rhetoricians of the twentieth century, Kenneth Burke (1897–1993) wrote poetry, short stories, and a novel in addition to more than a dozen books of critical theory.
The daughter-in-law of Kenneth Burke, Julie Whitaker brings firsthand knowledge of the author to the editing of this volume. She teaches literature and writing at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York.
David Blakesley is an associate professor of English at Purdue University and the author of The Elements of Dramatism and the editor of The Terministic Screen: Rhetorical Perspectives on Film. He is the founder and moderator of the Burke discussion list and the author of Taking Burke On(line): The Kenneth Burke Bibliography and Archival Project.
"No one in history, I'll wager, wrote more words than Kenneth Burke. Some of them, fortunately, were the remarkable poems of his later life—playful, funny words, aphoristic and surprising; death-defying and moving words; intellectually stimulating and occasionally confounding words. Unpretentious, personal, and delightfully idiosyncratic, Late Poems is in some ways like Burke's novel Towards a Better Life: the ironic, poignant lament of a social reformer, the verbal virtuosity of an original "language poet," a revealing window to the man and his work."—Jack Selzer, author of Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village: Conversing With the Moderns 1915–1931
"Above everything else, Kenneth Burke loved words and he especially loved to tinker with them. He had a very playful mind and was much given to ironic perceptions of the foibles and absurdities of the human condition. In his later years he wrote a great many poems, including verbal concoctions he called Flowerishes, which express this comic side of the many-sided Burke. They remind us that it is a grave mistake to take ourselves too seriously, for too much of the time. They make good, often very entertaining reading."—William H. Rueckert, author of Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations and Encounters with Kenneth Burke