Aug. 22, 2012

Poetry reference book features multiple Cornell contributors

Cornell's contributions to the study of poetry are reflected in a new edition of an essential reference work, edited by an alumnus and with entries written by more than a dozen Cornellians.

Published by Princeton University Press, "The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics" (PEPP), fourth edition, is the first new edition in almost 20 years. More than 250 of its 1,000-plus entries are new, ranging from short paragraphs to 15,000-word essays, on topics including electronic poetry and several recent terms and movements. The poetry of more than 110 nations, regions and languages is represented.

It is the authoritative reference "about the entire field of poetry and poetics [including] the poetry of the world's major languages. This new edition is the most complete and comprehensive by a fair margin," said contributor Debra Fried, an associate professor of English.

General Editor Stephen Cushman '78 earned his Cornell B.A. in English. "It was in the Cornell bookstore that I first saw and bought the second (1974) edition of the PEPP, so in a real way that story of my participation in this new edition begins there," he said.

Cushman, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, has published four poetry collections and several critical and historical volumes.

At Cornell, he studied with the late poet and professor A.R. Ammons. His teachers also included English professor Jonathan Culler, comparative literature professor William J. Kennedy and medievalist Winthrop (Pete) Wetherbee, now an emeritus professor -- all of whom wrote entries for this edition.

"I entered Cornell in the fall of 1974, the year Archie Ammons published 'Sphere: The Form of a Motion,' and I met him the next year, when he visited a class taught by Jerald Bullis to read from 'Sphere' and to answer questions. That visit was a turning point," Cushman said. "The following fall, 1976, I signed up for his verse-writing course and afterward stayed in touch with him until his death. He used to say that 'anybody who could find something to do other than write poems should do it.' I thought of that line many times while editing the encyclopedia."

The list of faculty contributors also includes English professors Fredric Bogel, Jeremy Braddock, Rayna Kalas and Jenny Mann; Near Eastern studies professor Ross Brann; and Gordon Teskey, who taught in the English department from 1982 to 2002.

Scholars who studied English at Cornell and contributed articles include Lawrence Lipking, M.A. '56, Ph.D. '62, the M.H. Abrams Distinguished Visiting Professor for 2012-13; and comparative literature graduate student Meredith Ramirez Talusan, M.F.A. '08. Alumni contributors also include Bonnie Costello, M.A. '76, Ph.D. '77; Margaret Ferguson '69; Laura Howes, B.A. '78; Krystyna Mazur, Ph.D. '00; Saundra Morris, Ph.D. '92; Paula Moya, M.A. '95, Ph.D. '98; and Amardeep Singh '95.

The book is available in paperback, clothbound and e-book editions.