In a deeply researched discussion of poetic, queer, and rhetorical theory, Bennett argues that "ideas of lyric, gossip, and queerness" reveal "new and illuminating contexts" (3).
Chad Bennett's Word of Mouth: Gossip and American Poetry is so careful and decorous, it is beyond reproach. The writing is groomed, the research meticulous, the choice of subjectsGertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Frank O'Hara, James Merrillstrikingly diverse. By patiently unpacking a crowd of difficult poems, Bennett shows how twentieth-century poetries have used gossip as mode to expand the formal and rhetorical possibilities of lyric.
Chad Bennett's intuition that gossip is not inconsequential but central to poetry and that both gossip and poetry are eccentrically central to life, marks an ironic, mature, and observant mind.... His rhetoric is unaggressive, but his point is provocative. The point is that although not all gossip is queer, there is something potentially queer about gossip itself.
Word of Mouth is a substantial and important achievement; it's also a great pleasure, promising to be read and admired. Beautifully written, informed by historical poetics, and offering a powerful queer analysis of US poetics of the twentieth century, the book goes beyond the sum of its parts to present a fascinating way of thinking about the reading and writing of modern poetry.
Psst!—did you hear about Chad Bennett’s lively, incisive, and engaging new book? It beautifully reveals how poetry absorbs gossip’s playfulness, intimacy, energy, and address. Check out its supple and smart readings. And spread the word!
Chad Bennett’s wonderful study uncovers the surprising, generative role that gossip, of all things, plays in the history and practice of poetry. Reading across movements and historical periods, Bennett’s 'common ear / for our deep gossip' detects fascinating, unexpected queer affinities between poets rarely thought of together. This highly original book opens up exciting new vistas for our understanding of modern lyric poetry.
1. "They Will Tell Well"
2. "Ain’t You Heard?"
3. "The Dish That’s Art"
4. "The Celestial Salon"