Poetry and the Practical


Edited with an Introduction and Notes by James Everett Kibler Jr.
978-1-55728-540-9 (paper)
July 1998


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Delivered as a three-part lecture series in 1854 at the famous Hibernian Society Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, Simms’s spirited defense of poetry stands in the nobel line of poetic credos from poets such as Sir Philip Sidney and Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is the only full-length work of its kind in American literature, and it has never before been published.

Seventh in the University of Arkansas Press’s Simms Series, Poetry and the Practical is a clear, forceful rebuttal of arguments that would relegate poetry to the margins of life. It proclaims the high calling of poets as spokesmen and romantic visionaries, underscoring their mission to reveal truth and passion, mind and heart and to transcend the limiting bounds of the empirical. In proving poetry’s utility and worth, Simms uses all the tools of persuasion open to him: his wide reading, his considerable knowledge of the history of culture and civilizations, his understanding of the values of place and tradition, and, above all, an oratorical eloquence, which allows his words to leave the page in a rush of inspiration.

These lectures, which still retain their identity as scripts prepared and punctuated for performance, provide profound insight into Simms the poet and into the effects of industrialization, the southern sensibility, and the influence of European thought on southern literature at a critical point in that literature’s development.

“All thanks to James Kibler for rescuing William Gilmore Simms’s gorgeous bombardment of Romantic sensibility! If Poe was the South’s great literary analyst, Simms was its great literary orator. The language here is as heady as an ancient port wine.”
—Fred Chappell

The Simms Series

The University of Arkansas Press edition of the Selected Fiction of William Gilmore Simms has as its aim to publish the major novels and short fiction in reliable texts, together with scholarly introductions, annotations, and other matter useful to scholars, critics, and teachers of Simms’s work. Though not full-dress editions in the strictest sense, the volumes of the Arkansas Simms follow the conventions of scholarly editing by reprinting the last edition revised by Simms during his lifetime. Orthography, capitalization, and word division follow nineteenth-century practices, with no effort to modernize spelling or punctuation. Earlier volumes in the series have included both an introduction by Professor John C. Guilds, now the general editor emeritus, and a historical note and afterword by the editor of that particular volume. In the recent volumes the introduction, historical note, and afterword will be combined into a single introduction prepared by the volume editor.

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