The jazz term “riff” is short for “riffle”—“make rough.” In Untam’d Wing: Riffs on Romantic Poetry, scholar/poet Jeffrey Robinson sets out much like a jazz musician to renew a great body of work (say, Miles Davis on George Gershwin)—“to recast,” as he says in the Prefatory Note, “what have become monuments, with all the inertness of passive appreciation that monumentality encourages, into living forms.” If he “roughs up” some of our long-time favorites, it’s not to revise, and certainly not to improve, but on the contrary to reveal a timeless dimension that is of the very nature of the Romantic: “I would define a ‘romantic’ poem, of whatever vintage, as one that invites its own renewal in every present.” With all the boldness and subtle care of the poets he celebrates, Robinson stakes his “life-long involvement as reader, teacher, and scholar/critic of Romantic poetry” on an equally committed “absorption and belief in the discoveries of modern and contemporary experimental poetry.” Like a true marriage it lays bare both parties.
"Untam’d Wing is a heady conglomeration of poetic intensities and re-visionings, of the Romantic mother lode. Only a poet deeply embedded in and enthralled by this realm could take wild liberties and shape them into a contemporary volume of such curious and inventive range. Jeffrey Robinson is a scholar and has lived inside the Romantic body for decades, and precisely because of this his imagination is highly attuned to further Romantic nuance…. He sheds bright light on meaning and message. He is the scientist/artist finally breaking free of shackles."
—Anne Waldman, from the foreword