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The Conservative Poets: A Contemporary Anthology.
edited by William Baer.
Evansville Univ. Press, 182 pages, $20.

To refute Lionel Trilling’s assertion that there is no significant conservative imagination at work in America, William Baer has assembled twelve contemporary conservative poets. In his introduction, Baer lists the six “foundational premises” from Russsel Kirk’s The Conservative Mind that define the poets’ conservatism. Their ideology is also evident in their use of traditional poetic forms. Arranged chronologically, from Marion Montgomery (b. 1925) to Carrie Jerrell (b. 1976), the poets’ conservatism appears primarily in their choice of subjects and themes. Instead of the moral posturing, political utopianism, and sentimentality readers expect from contemporary verse, these poets present life in its irreducible complexity, including its tragic dimension. Anthony Lombardy’s “Casinos” illustrates the latter by asserting that casinos ready us “for other forms of loss.” This sense of the tragic, present throughout the book, is often accompanied by a redemptive hope, grounded by belief in a transcendent order. Bryce Christensen concludes “Vigil” by observing, “Above a mortgaged world, God’s lamps still shine.” By including several masterpieces of the form, the anthology refutes Robert Bly’s assertion that sonnets are where old professors go to die. Readers will recognize several contributors to FIRST THINGS among the poets.