147. (Ishion Hutchinson)

An appropriate title for this post might be “Momentum and Moment in the poetry of Ishion Hutchinson,” but the reason why will not be apparent till the end. Last week, Hutchinson’s House of Lords and Commons won the National Book Critic Circle award for poetry. I’ve written about Hutchinson before on a few occasions, admiring his work more on each. Here is another attempt at catching … Continue reading 147. (Ishion Hutchinson)

144. (Philip Larkin)

[COMPLETE VERSION.]  A chief complaint against Larkin is the insularity, his reaction to modernism that confuses an affirmation of Hardy’s special and lasting richness with a rejection of the internationalism that characterizes Pound and Eliot. It is the Larkin we see in a conversation with 1964 Ian Hamilton (collected in Further Requirements); asked “Do you read any foreign poetry,” the reply is stodgy and affected: “Foreign … Continue reading 144. (Philip Larkin)

143. (Marina Tsvetaeva)

And, in part, 143. (Elaine Feinstein), since it is Feinstein’s translations (written with the assistance of Angela Livingstone) from the Russian on which I will be relying. Although Livingstone tells us that Tsvetaeva’s voice is “particularly difficult to capture,” Tsvetaeva took a view of poetry that might empower a translator, though it also places a burden of the highest creative expectations on the act of … Continue reading 143. (Marina Tsvetaeva)

142. (Marguerite Yourcenar)

These days especially, everyone ought to know the closing paragraphs of the opening essay, “Faces of History in the Historia Augusta” (1958), in Yourcenar’s collection The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays: It is not for us, so myopic when it comes to evaluating our own civilization, its errors, its chances of survival, and the opinion of it the future will have, to be astonished that … Continue reading 142. (Marguerite Yourcenar)

141. (Robert Browning)

In most lyric poems of the nineteenth century, the pressure exerted on the language derive from the intense self-consciousness of the speaker: self-accusation, self-awareness, self-doubt, self-affirmation, but almost always occurring with the assumption that the speaker is alone with his or her words, and a solitary encounter with language. Even in the conversation poems of Wordsworth and Coleridge, though another is present, it is not … Continue reading 141. (Robert Browning)

140. (William Empson)

William Empson’s poetry has, until very recently, and despite years of trying to read it with some genuine appreciation, been inaccessible to me. I had thought that the trouble was with the density of conceit, the range of reference in the analogies, and the feeling that readers are being asked to sort out crosswords in verse; but the notes in the Haffenden edition cover that … Continue reading 140. (William Empson)

139. (Matthew Arnold)

Showing, earlier this week, some poems I’d written to a critic I admire and trust, I received back some critical suggestions that struck at a peculiar blind-spot: the first-person singular, where it is needed and where not, how it shifts the weight of a poem, dragging a great deal in with it, and excluding a great deal also. To write, for instance, “I would say” … Continue reading 139. (Matthew Arnold)