Commentary, Literature, Poetry

Fulke the Obscure

Fulke GrevilleIn early December, the Village Voice asked a panel of literary heavyweights (Ethan Hawke notwithstanding) to opine on their favorite obscure book. Robert Pinsky’s selection was a book called Caelica from “the greatest poet unknown to many readers,” Fulke Greville. In addition to being, as Pinsky notes, “an upper-class Englishman with a funny name,” (or, in your correspondent’s humble opinion, a moniker ripe for filching by a newly-formed indie rock band) Greville (1554–1628) was an important member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Although his poems, long out of print, are today less well known than those of Sidney, Spenser, or Shakespeare, Greville left an indelible mark on the world of Renaissance poetry, both in his love poems, which ably work within the English Petrarchan tradition, and in his religious meditations, which, along with the work of Donne and Herbert, stand as a highpoint of early Protestant poetics.
Pinsky, who, in addition to his many and varied achievements, including a stint as United States poet laureate and a cameo on The Simpsons, is a University of Chicago Press author (his Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town will be published this Spring), will undoubtedly be delighted to know Greville may find his elusive audience at last. In April, the Press will publish in paperback The Selected Poems of Fulke Greville, edited and with an introduction by Thom Gunn and a new afterword by Bradin Cormack, which includes the whole of the lyric sequence, Caelica. Back in print for a new generation of scholars and readers, Gunn’s selection of Greville’s short poems, along with choruses from some of Greville’s verse dramas, and his thoughtful introduction to the poet is an event of the first order that is certain to rescue Greville from the ranks of the obscure.
There’s more Gunn on our spring list, as well. At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn, edited by Joshua Weiner, brings together essays (including one from Pinsky) that explore Gunn’s pressure on the boundaries of different kinds, be they geographic, sexual, or poetic, in both his life and his work. And in our Phoenix Poets, Randall Mann imagines Breakfast with Thom Gunn.
Whether you are seeking an overlooked sixteenth century bard or a twentieth-century gay literary icon, our Spring list will satisfy all.