173. (Eugenio Montale)

The final poem in La Bufera e altro, “Il sogno del prigionero,” “The Prisoner’s Dream,” is also the second poem in the section titled “Conclusioni provvisiorie,” “Provisional Conclusions.”  Below is the Arrowsmith translation: . Here, except for a few signs, you can’t tell dawn from night. . The zigzag of starlings over the watchtowers on days of fighting, my only wings, a thread of arctic air, the … Continue reading 173. (Eugenio Montale)

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)

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)

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)