Poetry criticism in our time has suffered a steady marginalization of print attention, to the greater disadvantage of poets, poetry enthusiasts, and the general reader. Even so, the last generation’s kingmakers—Harold Bloom and Helen Vendler—have loosened their grip on reliably championing the newest and most vital contemporary poetry (yet, of course, here there are exceptions: as evidenced with Marjorie Perloff’s rigorous, at times monotone, championing of conceptual poetics practiced today). Interestingly, many of the noted next-generation critics such as Stephen Burt and William Logan, whatever one makes of their too-soft or too-hard sells, are poets themselves. But if the old standard line about the best criticism being appreciative criticism means anything, if poets still make the greatest critics because of their firsthand sensitivity to the craft, Maureen McLane’s newest book, My Poets (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012), signals a much-needed injection into the pulse of mainstream discourse. Noticeably, McLane’s tack is not as “book reviewer” in this volume (though she has done distinguished work in that field, bringing to bear judgment sans kneejerk polemics); rather, she comes across as a digressive and astute close-reader, full of autobiographical pith and a relaxedly cheeky tone. What readers may find most interesting in her study of poets living and dead that mean most to her are her eclecticism (Gertrude Stein doesn’t usually sit side-by-side with the likes of Elizabeth Bishop, but why not!) and her almost Menippean formal ingenuity—the chapters are centos, rhapsodies, encounters rooted in memory and knowing pastiche. When I sat down with McLane last spring, I felt myself more aware than ever of how much poetry criticism needs such a return to personal investment and greater formal intelligence. The T. S. Eliot-Respectable-Man-of-Letters act is stale, and has been for half-a-century. Yet lucky for us, My Poets is anything but. These essays return the zeal and creativity to criticism—like that of Susan Howe’s classic My Emily Dickinson, which McLane’s title pays tribute to—with abundant skill.