John D'Agata: The Making of the American Essay

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As a graduate student of poetry and non-fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, essayist John D'Agata went in search of the then-unknown history of the essay.  His massive three-volume A New History of the American Essay  (Graywolf Press) is the result of nearly 20 years of work. However, D'Agata believes that we're still in the "Wild West" of coming to terms with the essay, its long heritage and its creation.  As he discusses the final anthology here, D'Agata expands the definition of the essay form by including poems.  He says that poetry, like the essay, follows the evolution of a mind as it considers a subject

Read an excerpt from The Making of the American Essay.

Photo: Alex Pieros