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J. V. Cunningham (James Vincent Cunningham) Biography

(1911–95), (James Vincent Cunningham), The Helmsman, The Judge Is Fury, Doctor Drink

poems epigrams poetry poet

American poet, born in Cumberland, Maryland, educated at Stanford University. His books include The Helmsman (1942), The Judge Is Fury (1947), Doctor Drink (1950), Trivial, Vulgar & Exalted: Epigrams (1957), The Exclusions of a Rhyme: Poems and Epigrams (1960), To What Strangers, What Welcome: A Sequence of Short Poems (1964), and Some Salt: Poems and Epigrams (1967). The Collected Poems and Epigrams appeared in 1971 and Collected Essays in 1976. Cunningham is an austere poet with a passion for exact statement in tightly controlled forms, whose ideal poetic models were those of Roman satire and the conceits of the most formal sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry. He stood against the self-expressive rhetoric and emotionalism of much of the most fashionable poetry of his times, including Romanticism, its post-Romantic modernist orthodoxy, as in the work of T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, the open forms of those who wrote in the Poundian tradition, and the confessionalism much in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s. His chosen form is the classical epigram, his elected idiom the satiric and self-parodic, which allows for the play of wit and irony in his commentary on the absurdity of human life. He is the subject of a critical study by his mentor Yvor Winters.

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