Unlike Whitman, Dickinson, or Wordsworth, Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–1873) never wanted to start a revolution in poetry. Nor did he—like Longfellow or his friend Tennyson—capture or ever try to represent the spirit of his age. Yet he remains one of America’s most passionate, moving, and technically accomplished poets of the nineteenth century: a New Englander through and through, a poet of the outdoors, wandering fields and wooded hillsides by himself, driven to poetry and the solitude of nature by the loss of his beloved wife. This is the persona we encounter again and again in Tuckerman’s sonnets and stanzaic lyric poetry.
Correcting numerous errors in previous editions, this is the first reliable reading edition of Tuckerman’s poetry. Ben Mazer has painstakingly re-edited the poems in this selection from manuscripts at the Houghton Library. Included in this generous selection are several important poems omitted in The Complete Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. In his introduction to the volume, Stephen Burt celebrates an extraordinary poet of mourning and nature—an anti-Transcendental—who in many ways seems closer to writers of our own century than to, say, Emerson or even Thoreau. Readers who enjoy the verse of Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, or Mary Oliver will find much to admire in Tuckerman’s poetry.