Donald Revell argues passionately for the transformation that imaginative experience elicits through poetry. "The art of poetry is not about the acquisition of wiles or the deployment of strategies," Revell writes. "Beginning in the senses, imagination senses farther, senses more." Using examples from his own poetry and translations and from Blake and Thoreau to Ronald Johnson and John Ashbery, Revell's The Art of Attention: A Poet's Eye takes the writer beyond the workshop and into the world of vision.
The Art of Attention is part of The Art of series, a line of books by important authors on the craft of writing, edited by Charles Baxter. Each book examines a singular, but often assumed or neglected, issue facing the contemporary writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. The Art of series means to restore the art of criticism while illuminating the art of writing. Of the series, Baxter writes, "The Art of series is meant to restore criticism as an art, with writers examining features of their craft in lively and colorful prose."
"It is the watched—the attended to—world of which poetry is made. That is the premise of Revell's entry in the series. It is the rapt attention of the poet that can elevate a poem to a position of timelessness, where the poem is always happening, always present, and the reader always cares. Revell defines what it means to be fully attentive, describes the consequences of such a state, and explains how poets can renew their own lapsed attentions through the art of translation. In his final chapter, he surveys his own body of work to show how the way in which he has attended to the world has changed over time . . . Highly recommended for all academic libraries."—Maria Kochis, Library Journal
"This short and wonderful second book of prose from poet Revell begins as an essay on luminous mystical vision and ends as a poetic autobiography, explaining how the poet got from the bitter, involuted verse of his first books to his pellucid, delighted and delightful recent work. In between, Revell argues that poets should translate, with examples from Ezra Pound and Revell's own engagement with Guillaume Apollinaire; he also argues that familiar ideas about imagination, originality, craft and revision have the true poetic process exactly backwards. True poetry, for Revell as for his frequent model Thoreau, flows from openness to whatever awaits us outside the self . . . This compact book . . . seems designed in part for poetry workshops, but Revell's unusual take makes this as much a warmhearted essay on metaphysics as a guidebook, which is likely to make any poetry lover stop and pay attention."—Publishers Weekly