172. (Eugenio Montale)

  The Poetry Foundation’s website has a brief essay on Montale, helpful mostly for its generous quotations from critics and from the poet. The consensus among critics, unsurprisingly, is that Montale’s poetry is “difficult.” Here is Ghan Singh: Of all the important twentieth-century Italian poets Montale is the one in whose case it is most difficult to proceed by explicating, through definite formulations and statements, … Continue reading 172. (Eugenio Montale)

171. (T.S. Eliot)

  Among Eliot’s staunchest and nimblest readers, Christopher Ricks was unrelenting in his 1978 attack on Eliot’s late essay, “What is Minor Poetry?”  I offer first a series of quotations from Ricks’ piece, published in Ploughshares: Eliot is probably the only important critic who has bent himself to—or on—the distinction between major and minor, and yet even this master of elusiveness found himself out-eluded. For his … Continue reading 171. (T.S. Eliot)

170. (Eugenio Montale)

A second in a series of readings of poems by Eugenio Montale, from his collection La Bufera e altro.  Here, from the fifth selection of the collection, “Silvae,” is the poem ” ‘Ezekiel Saw the Wheel’.” The original title is an English quotation, alluding, believes William Arrowsmith, whose translation I consult, to a African-American slave spiritual. Arrowsmith’s translation: Was it you, strange hand, that snatched me from … Continue reading 170. (Eugenio Montale)

169. (Willa Cather)

At least in her four masterpieces–My Antonia, The Professor’s House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Shadows on the Rock–Willa Cather is as expansive, sensitive, generous, and understanding towards human life as a novelist could be.  To plot more than she does, it comes to feel, would be to set an agenda; and she has none, though her characters, and the habits and traditions they live by, … Continue reading 169. (Willa Cather)

168. (Eugenio Montale)

I’m going to devote a few posts to readings of Montale’s poems from La Bufera e altro, Montale’s 1956 collection that I would be my 20th-century desert-island poetry selection. The collection was written during the backdrop and in the aftermath of World War Two; Montale was from Florence but spent time also in Milan. Many of the poems are addressed to a female presence–Clizia, sometimes called … Continue reading 168. (Eugenio Montale)