Robert Penn Warren's reputation as a poet, though always considerable, has soared in the last decade, as indicated by his recent selection as America's first poet laureate. The Braided Dream is one of the first book-length studies of the poetry that has led to Warren's recent rise to eminence and the first to consider his final collection, Altitudes and Extensions.
In a communicable, jargon-free style that will appeal to the nonacademic reader as well as the serious scholar, Randolph Paul Runyon provides a detailed and illuminating guide to a body of poetry that, despite its greatness, has until now seemed resistant to full understanding.
Every poem of Warren's last four sequences -- Now and Then, Being Here, Rumor Verified, and Altitudes and Extensions -- is given a close reading, with a precise laying-out of words, phrases, and recurring images that not only enrich the texture of the poetry but are themselves the texture. Runyon demonstrates the relevance of Freud's concept of the dream work of the unconscious to a reading of this tightly interwoven poetry. He shows how Warren's poems assume additional meanings by the poet's very arrangement of them, deepening his thesis by arguing that "poems eat poems" as each reuses and reconceptualizes the imagery of its predecessor, frequently with ironic or parodic effect.
"No old New Critic has ever read poems with as sharp an eye toward the text -- what it says -- as Runyon. I am thoroughly convinced by the way he performs this act of very creative critical reading." -- James H. Justus