University of Michigan Poets on Poetry Series, 2000
Dancing at the Devil's Party contains six essays on American poetry. It is a book supporting "the poetics of ardor," celebrating the kind of poetry that means to change the world, through engagement with politics, through re-imagining the meanings of love, through recasting our relationship with nature, and through new relationsips with our spiritual traditions.
Ostriker's opening essay, defining the difference between poetry and propaganda, surveys the artistic accomplishments of the women's poetry movement. Succeeding esays explore the meaning of politics, love, and the spiritual life in Walt whitman, Elisabeth Bishop, Sharon Olds, maxine Kumin, Lucille Clifton, and Allen Ginsberg.
The Poets on Poetry Series of the University of Michigan Press collects critical works by contemporary poets, gathering together the articles, interviews and book reviews by which they have articulated the poetics of a new generation.
This is the best writing--it gets you at all levels. Not Helen Vendler, not Marjorie Perloff, but Ostriker is the best guide to poetry, if you don't know poetry and if you do....I read Dancing at the Devil's Party the first time straight through, late into the night and up again early the next morning, as gripped as anyone is by a geat novel. Why is that? Ostriker writes in the tradition, now neglected, of what used to be called the "engaged" critic, the critic who is alive to social and political issues as well as purely aesthetic ones.

--Adrian Oktenberg, Women's Review of Books

Ostriker's essay on Ginsberg, "'Howl' revisited; the Poet as Jew,"] is...one part of the book I felt compelled to mark up while reading, creating my own marginalia, Talmud-style....The tragicomic tone of "Howl" may be as Jewish as Scholem Aleichem, but what to do with Ginsberg's own renunciation of his Jewishness? Just as I was beginning to fear that Ostriker would relegate Ginsberg to some not-Jewish, not-gentile wasteland, comes her glorious save: "yet ambivalence toward Jewishness, like pepper in the stew, is a key ingredient of post-Enlightenment Jewish writing." Bingo. Ostriker wins again. She could not be more right.... Quotations and explanations give this book root; Ostriker's passion for "the poetics of ardor" give it flight. This is a strong, compelling and beautiful book of essays.

--Rachel Barenblat, Pif Magazine

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