155. (Christopher Smart)

Who are the major poets who have not excelled in something that might be called “light verse”? Even Wordsworth, the least funny of major poets, has his “We Are Seven” and “Expostulation and Reply,” which possess the strengths and effects of light verse; and Milton has his sonnet on the Cambridge mail-carrier, not to mention the playful syntax in Book 4 of Paradise Lost. If I … Continue reading 155. (Christopher Smart)

146. (John Milton)

Reading Paradise Lost with a student, the chance to see more than before, vicariously through fresh eyes, has been most thrillingly felt in the book where seeing with fresh eyes is the poet’s subject: the fourth, where Satan sees Adam and Eve for the first time, where Eve sees her own reflection, where Satan, dissembling the Angels, is exposed and learns that he is not seen in … Continue reading 146. (John Milton)

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)

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)

134. (Wallace Stevens)

A friend of mine, the recent election in heart and mind, sent me Wallace Stevens’ poem, “United Dames of America.” The poem’s epigraph is from Jules Renard: “Je tâche, en restant exact, d’être poète,” which translates as “I strive, in keeping exact, to be a poet.” . There are not leaves enough to cover the face It wears. This is the way the orator spoke: … Continue reading 134. (Wallace Stevens)

125. (Christina G. Rossetti)

Patience is the activity and end of Christina G. Rossetti’s poetry: patience for the time of God, for death, for the second coming, and patience with her fleeting passions. As a consequence, the volume of her output, the 800-odd pages in the Penguin Complete Poems, edited by R.W. Crump, is less surprising than it seems: patience must be repeatedly mastered and renewed; it cannot be … Continue reading 125. (Christina G. Rossetti)