George Starbuck

1931–1996
George Starbuck

George Starbuck's songs of protest are usually concerned with love, war, and the spiritual temper of the times. John Holmes believes that "there hasn't been as much word excitement . . . for years," as one finds in Bone Thoughts. Harvey Shapiro points out that Starbuck's work is attractive because of its "witty, improvisational surface, slangy and familiar address, brilliant aural quality . . .," and adds that Starbuck may become a "spokesman for the bright, unhappy young men. . . ."

Thomas Gunn, on the other hand, believes that Starbuck "is not even very elegant," but, Louise Bogan writes, his daring satire "sets him off from the poets of generalized rebellion."

After reading Bone Thoughts, Holmes hoped for other books in the same vein; R. F. Clayton finds that, in White Paper, the verse again stings with parody. Although Robert D. Spector wasn't sure of Starbuck's sincerity in Bone Thoughts, he rates the poems in White Paper, which range "from parody to elegy to sonnets, and even acrostic exercises," as "generally superior examples of their kind." In particular, Spector writes, when Starbuck juxtaposes McNamara's political language and a Quaker's self-immolation by burning, or wryly offers an academician's praise for this nation's demonstration of humanity by halting its bombing for "five whole days," we sense this poet's genuine commitment.

Career

Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, editor in trade department, 1958-61; American Academy in Rome, Italy, fellow, 1961-63; State University of New York at Buffalo, librarian and lecturer, 1963-64; University of Iowa, Writers Workshop, Iowa City, associate professor, 1964-67, director, 1967-70; Boston University, Boston, MA, professor of creative writing and director of graduate programs, 1971-96.

Bibliography

POETRY

  • Bone Thoughts, Yale University Press, 1960.
  • White Paper, Little, Brown, 1966.
  • Elegy in a Country Church Yard, Pym-Randall, 1975.
  • Desperate Measures, David Godine, 1978.
  • Talkin' B.A. Blues: The Life and a Couple of Deaths of Ed Teashack, or, How I Discovered B.U., Met God, and Became an International Figure, Pym-Randall, 1980.
  • The Argot Merchant Disaster: Poems, New and Selected, Little, Brown, 1982.
  • Visible Ink, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 2002.
  • The Works: Poems Selected from Five Decades, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 2003.

Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including New Yorker, Atlantic, Poetry, New Republic, Saturday Review, and Yale Review.

Further Reading

PERIODICALS

  • Books and Bookmen, No. 329, February 1983, p. 28.
  • New Yorker, March 26, 1960.
  • New York Herald Tribune Book Review, June 12, 1960.
  • New York Times Book Review, October 23, 1960; February 13, 1983, pp. 15, 38.
  • The Observer, June 12, 1983.
  • Saturday Review, February 11, 1967.
  • Yale Review, June, 1960; Vol. 73, No. 1, October, 1983, p. R 19.

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POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

LIFE SPAN 1931–1996

George Starbuck

Biography

George Starbuck's songs of protest are usually concerned with love, war, and the spiritual temper of the times. John Holmes believes that "there hasn't been as much word excitement . . . for years," as one finds in Bone Thoughts. Harvey Shapiro points out that Starbuck's work is attractive because of its "witty, improvisational surface, slangy and familiar address, brilliant aural quality . . .," and adds that Starbuck may . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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